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Colleges & Universities | P2

Colleges and universities use toxic substances and generate hazardous waste as a result of conducting routine activities such as operating science labs and through the use of chemicals in art, photography and vehicle maintenance classes. Additionally, maintaining the campus facilities also generates waste. Here are some useful resources and tips to help reduce pollution at the source in schools.


Improving Air Quality

Check out Maricopa County's Trip Reduction Program to reduce air pollution (carbon monoxide, ozone and particulate matter) through single occupant vehicle reduction | Learn More >

Download Maricopa County's Clean Air Make More mobile app or sign up for alerts to receive information on reducing air pollution | Get the App >

Reducing Toxic Substance Use

Reduce the use of toxic substances by searching for nontoxic chemicals or less toxic substitutes. See EPA’s Safer Choice website for more information. Toxic substances that can be reduced or eliminated include:

  • Cleaning products
  • Chemicals used for laboratory experiments
  • Chemicals used in courses such as art, vehicle maintenance, medical and veterinary sciences

EPA's Safer Choice >

The benefits include less chemical exposure by students and staff, less waste generated that needs to be managed as a hazardous waste and safer chemicals for the environment and student health.

Label, date and inventory chemicals to prevent disposal of raw materials due to expiration. Obtain further information on identifying alternatives through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration website | Learn More >

See the American Chemical Society’s webinar on How to Create a Greener and More Sustainable Lab | View Webinar >

Reducing Mercury-Containing Products

Replace mercury-containing devices such as light bulbs, mercury gauges, manometers and thermometers, that must be managed when disposed under the hazardous waste regulations (40 CFR Parts 260-273) or universal waste rules (40 CFR Part 273), with mercury-free alternatives | See List of Safe Alternatives >

In addition, other products used in labs, home economics, art classrooms, the nurse office, and facility maintenance can be replaced with safer alternatives including:

  • Inorganic mercury compounds (mercury chloride, mercury nitrate, mercury oxide)
  • Vermillion paint
  • Fungicides and pesticides

For more information see EPA’s "Mercury in Your Environment" | Go to Page >

Reducing Hazardous Waste Generation

To reduce the generation of hazardous waste at the source, inventory stock of chemicals in all departments before purchasing new material. Make a list of all the expired or unused chemicals that were managed as a hazardous waste to determine if they can be eliminated from use.

Reduce photographic waste by:

  • Finding a suitable outlet that can recover precious metals such as silver from photographic waste. Ensure compliance with hazardous waste regulations | Learn More >
  • Use a counter-current rinsing system to reduce water consumption.

Limit or reduce the use of paint thinners, paints, inks and other solvent containing materials by revising lesson plans to either work in groups or substitute the chemicals with others that do not need to be managed as a hazardous waste.

Do not mix hazardous waste with non-hazardous waste. This can increase your waste volumes.

Do not store incompatible hazardous waste.

Integrated Pest Management

Integrated pest management is an environmentally friendly, common sense approach to controlling pests. Reduce pesticide use by:

  • Setting action thresholds
  • Determining if the pests identified are beneficial pests
  • Select pesticides made from natural, plant-based ingredients
  • See EPA’s Managing Pests in Schools4 webpage | Learn More >
  • See Information on Pests in Schools and Their Control | Learn More >
  • Check out Pest Notes Library6 to learn about specific pests or pest management topics | Learn More >

Shut the Sash in Your Laboratories

What is a sash? The sash is the front, or glass portion, of the fume hood which can be moved up or down.

Why is this important? Fume hoods exhaust air that must be replaced with incoming air that has to be cooled or heated. This is a big expense for college or university laboratories. An open hood can cost up to $6,500 in air conditioning per year. A closed sash can reduce the cost by 85%.

Learning More about Pollution Prevention

Visit the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education12 website | View Page >

Find case studies on the topics below | View Case Studies >

  • Campus engagement
  • Coordination and planning
  • Curriculum
  • Waste
  • Transportation and purchasing
  • Case studies by discipline