CU Green Labs and Environmental Health & Safety make this free program on the CU Boulder campus possible. The program promotes the recycling and reuse of solvents. The program's goals are to save labs money and reduce the amount of hazardous waste produced by campus labs.
Why should my lab participate in the Solvent Recycling Program?
- Save money for your lab by receiving free distilled solvents.
- Reduce the amount of hazardous waste leaving CU Boulder.
- Reduce the need to bring additional solvents to campus.
- Benefit the environment!
What solvents are accepted?
We are willing to consider all solvents for this program. Currently, methanol, ethanol and acetone are distilled on campus. If your lab generates other solvent waste, contact EH&S to see if they may be good candidates for the solvent recycling program.
What are common uses of recycled solvents?
Recycled solvents are typically used for teaching labs, rinsing glassware, sterilizing biosafety cabinets and for Coomassie staining and destaining. Try out recycled solvent in your lab and see how it works for you!
Distillation of Acetone, Methanol, and Ethanol
Our former Chemistry Team Lead, Lily Robertson, who was working towards her Ph.D in chemistry, began an acetone recycling program in the chemistry building in June 2013. She wrote a Sustainable CU Grant to obtain funding for the first fractional distillation unit on campus, and matching funding was provided by the Chemistry Department and Facilities Managment. This acetone recycling achieves an overall efficiency of 76% and has saved CU Boulder labs over $10,000 since 2013, not to mention the savings on disposal costs for hazardous waste. Many labs at CU Boulder participate in the acetone recycling program. Methanol, ethanol, and other solvents can also be distilled in fractional distillation units. In 2016 a second fractional distillation unit was purchased for campus with funds provided by Facilities Management, and it is now in place in the Environmental Health and Safety Building (EHS).
The Stable Isotope Lab at the Institute for Alpine and Artic Research (INSTAAR) uses ethanol cold traps during its analysis of ice core samples and at the end of the process, they are left with a 85-90% diluted ethanol and water solution. Previously, this ethanol solution left-over from INSTAAR was discarded as hazardous waste, but now, the Biochemsitry Cell Culture Facility dilutes this ethanol and water solution further, to a 70% dilution and reuses it to sterilize biosafety cabinets and other items.
Ethanol reuse has been in effect at CU Boulder for several years with ~120 gallons of ethanol/year being diverted from hazardous waste and being re-used in Biochemistry cell culture, saving the cell culture facility ~$1500/yr in avoided ethanol purchasing costs. The ethanol is transported between the two INSTAAR & Biochemistry Cell Culture labs by Environmental Health & Safety.