Glassware Recycling

Glassware is a common waste from research laboratories.  If uncontaminated, glassware can be recycled as opposed to disposed of in landfills or incinerators.  During the implementation of the Chemical Tracking System (ChemTracker) at Morningside in the summer of 2006, EH&S identified an opportunity to increase laboratory glassware recycling in the Department of Chemistry.  Due to the nature of some of the research in Chemistry, tons of “contaminated” glassware were managed by EH&S through the Hazardous Waste Management Program each year.  This glassware was perceived as grossly contaminated and a hazardous waste incinerator was the disposal outlet of choice. ChemTracker, which served as the impetus for all laboratories to manage their chemical inventories and the resultant empty laboratory chemical containers in a consistent fashion, also enabled EH&S work with the laboratories to establish better source segregation practices at the point of generation.  As a result, the tons of “contaminated” glassware traditionally handled through the Hazardous Waste Management Program were reduced and a significant volume of uncontaminated glassware was redirected for recycling. 

Yellow glassware bin

Not all laboratory glassware is suitable for recycling.  To help the laboratories determine which glassware can be recycled, EH&S prepared some general guidance for the laboratories to follow. In general, empty bar-coded chemical containers should be rinsed, defaced of their labels and placed into a yellow chemical collection bin so they can be scanned out of the ChemTracker system and properly recycled.  Unwanted clean laboratory glassware should be discarded in a cardboard box designed for broken glass collection and recycling.  Grossly contaminated glassware must still be collected in the blue bins for disposal through the Hazardous Waste Management Program

Cardboard bin

Since the program’s inception in September 2006, we have been diverting approximately 50% of our overall glassware waste from landfills and incinerators to recycling facilities.  This has translated into a 40% reduction in expenses for glassware disposal, which is proof that going green does not always cost more.

What to do with cardboard glass recycling containers when they are full… 

Uncontaminated glassware should be packaged and sealed in cardboard boxes (either boxes designed specifically for disposable glassware or other empty boxes) and left for your campus’ Facilities Operation Office to collect and deliver to the glass recycling staging area.  Please visit the “Laboratory Container and Glassware Management Policy” link for guidance.

Last but not least…

Please be part of Columbia University’s effort and commitment to the environment by recycling your uncontaminated glassware.  It’s simple: if you use glassware make sure you have a cardboard glass bin in your laboratory, this bin will be recycled.  If you have questions regarding what can be recycled and what can’t, refer to our glass management chart or ask a Hazardous Materials Officer.