Encouraging Toxic use Reduction in Academic Laboratories

EPA Grant Number: SU832467
Title: Encouraging Toxic use Reduction in Academic Laboratories
Investigators: Steinfeld, Jeffrey I. , Schalkwyk, William van
Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: II
Project Period: September 1, 2005 through August 31, 2006
Project Amount: $39,852
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2005) Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Ecosystems , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


This project seeks to balance essential research with its associated environmental burdens by promoting the use of less toxic and less polluting alternatives to commonly used toxic chemicals. MIT seeks to use the purchasing process to provide researchers with the option of selecting such alternatives, thereby reducing the use of toxic chemicals in research and operations.

The innovative improved purchasing process will be included in a comprehensive Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Management System. This System is intended to be a model for academic research institutions and should have far-reaching positive impacts on the environment in this country, and possibly around the globe.

The project will make use of data on the amounts and types of chemicals purchased by research laboratories and user surveys to determine the uses for which these materials are employed. Green Chemistry data bases will be used to identify less toxic and less polluting alternatives, and make this information readily available to users. A key component will be to identify the barriers to implementation and means of encouraging independent researchers to adopt these strategies. The results will be incorporated into MIT's model EHS Management System. Evaluation metrics will include ongoing monitoring of the amounts and types of hazardous waste requiring disposal.

By providing researchers with the information they need to choose less polluting options, and developing effective methods for reducing the volume of toxic chemicals used in academic laboratories, environmental burdens and disposal costs will be reduced and the safety of laboratory personnel will be enhanced. Furthermore, since academic institutions such as MIT train future scientists, engineers, and research administrators, experience with the proposed system will become part of the students' educational experience and will influence their decisions in their future professional activities. Structured educational activities, including seminars, on-line training modules, and presentations at community and international forums, will extend the influence of this project in academic research institutions. Partnerships with industry associations will allow this model to be extended to the chemical industry as well.


The objectives for Phase II are to continue and build upon the progress toward hazardous waste reduction in the MIT research laboratories which has begun to attract significant attention among students, faculty, and research staff. Strategies will be developed for overcoming the barriers to implementation identified during Phase I of the project, including an enhanced education, communication, and outreach effort. Key components of the strategy include:

  • Continue and expand the internal "Sustainable Chemistry Award" program.
  • Continue implementation of an alternative chemicals purchasing interface on several of the purchasing systems in use at MIT.
  • Extend the earlier survey to identify which elements of a green chemistry education and implementation program receive the most favorable response.
  • Develop additional educational initiatives, including a topic module in the new undergraduate laboratory program and a seminar on Green and Sustainable Chemistry.
  • Increase our efforts to inform the chemistry community about this project through appropriate conference presentations and publications.
  • Continue and expand partnerships with MIT's Environmental Programs Office and the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association.

Supplemental Keywords:

chemicals, toxics, toxic substances; pollution prevention (green chemistry), alternatives, waste reduction, waste minimization, decision making, RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Sustainable Environment, waste reduction, Environmental Chemistry, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Waste, Economics and Business, Chemicals Management, academic laboratories, cleaner production, waste minimization, toxic use reduction, alternative materials, hazardous waste, source reduction, environmentally-friendly chemical synthesis

Relevant Websites:

Phase 1 Abstract
Phase 1 Final Report

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final

  • P3 Phase I:

    Encouraging Toxic Use Reduction in Academic Laboratories  | Final Report