Lab Waste Initiatives


Laboratories are one of the primary waste generators at universities around the world. Green laboratory initiatives offer great potential for reducing waste, saving energy, and improving safety.

Free Lab Recycling Bins and Boxes

Many lab items can be recycled, including pipette tip boxes, bottles and containers, and packaging materials. The Environmental Health & Safety’s Sustainability Program offers free recycling boxes and bins for your lab.

Nitrile Glove Recycling

The Sustainability Program offers free nitrile glove recycling boxes to collect uncontaminated nitrile gloves for recycling. Only TerraCycle glove recycling boxes can be used for recycling nitrile gloves.

Uncontaminated means:

  • Not used in a BSL3 lab and not used with a BSL2 agent
  • No contact with radioactive materials
  • Not used with acutely toxic materials
  • Not stained with hazardous chemicals and not used to clean up a hazardous chemical spill.

If you would like a nitrile glove recycling box for your lab, contact Lauren Poole at

Recycle Plastic Pipette Boxes and Trays

Plastic pipette boxes and trays can be recycled. Currently, there is one drop location for plastic pipette boxes and trays: the basement hallway of the GRL.

Refillable Pipette Tip Racks

Pipette tips are a common lab item that are used for transferring small volumes of liquid accurately, precisely, and sterilely.  Even though reducing the net number of tips used is not practical, labs can still reduce plastic waste related to pipette tips by reusing the boxes that hold the tips.

Many companies, such as the ones linked below, have reusable boxes that can hold pipette tip racks.  The refillable pipette tip racks are often a fraction of the cost and they require half of the plastic to manufacture. Consider ordering refillable tip boxes for your lab to save money and reduce plastic waste.

VWR – 70% cheaper
TipOne  – 30% cheaper when ordering in SmartMart
Ranin – Same price

Waste Sorting in the Lab

Make sure you are disposing of lab waste appropriately. See below for guidance on proper disposal of common lab materials.

Environmental Health and Safety recycles rechargeable batteries. Colorado Recyclers do not recycle alkaline batteries. For more details, visit the CDPHE website.  You can purchase flame retardant alkaline battery recycling boxes from Call2Recycle and TerraCycle where they will be shipped out of state or country for recycling. There is a carbon footprint created by this method.
Cold Packs
Some companies offer a cold pack take back program such as E&K Scientific. Call your supplier and ask if they will come pick them up or if you can ship them back for reuse.
Computers, monitors, TV’s, microwaves, electronics, etc. Electronic waste is now classified by Colorado Law as a hazardous waste. Waste haulers will not accept these items in the trash.

Environmental Health and Safety recycles university owned electronic devices, including computers, printers, monitors, projectors, etc. Submit a work order for surplus property pickup. Please indicate in your work order if the surplus property is working or non-working. Working property is resold at state auction. Non-working e-waste is disposed of responsibly per Colorado law.

Expanded polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) is a very difficult material to recycle and cannot be disposed of in the regular recycling bins for plastics, metal and glass. However, here are some other options:

  • Mines has several drop locations for recycling #6 styrofoam through SustainAbility. The two current drop locations are in the basement of CoorsTek (trash/recycle room) and the basement of the General Research Lab.
  • New England Biol abs and Sigma-Aldrich have styrofoam shipping container take-back programs. All you need to do is re-seal the container and drop it off at any U.S. Postal Service drop-off location. Read more here.