Researchers who make an environmental difference: Lisa Sanzenbacher

In 2009 Lisa Sanzenbacher was a lab manager at the University of IL-Chicago (UIC) and immunohistochemistry was her “best friend.” While consuming massive amounts of plastic lab supplies and chemicals used for staining, she thought, “There must be a better way to get rid of this stuff.”

Lisa Sanzenbacher and pipette tip box recylcing bins
Lisa Sanzenbacher and pipette tip box recylcing bins

Fast forward to 2012…Lisa is the Laboratory Sustainability Analyst at UIC. She helps scientists recycle lab supplies and safely dispose of hazardous materials. One of her biggest accomplishments to date is the Pipette Tip Box (PTB) Recycling Program. Did you know PTB’s are 100% recyclable???

The PTB Recycling Program at UIC includes 56 bins in 10 buildings on campus. From July 2011 through November 2012 (see graph) the program has diverted 4,660 pounds of plastic from landfills and into the recycling stream. That’s roughly 29,000 boxes of pipette tips! If your university is not recycling PTB’s and you want to start making a difference, find out who your Sustainability Analyst is and put them in touch with Lisa.

Results of the pipette tip box recycling program. Y-axis is pounds of plastic recycled.
Results of the pipette tip box recycling program. Y-axis is pounds of plastic recycled.

Lisa’s 3 Recommendations for Creating a Greener Lab

  1. Turn off the lights! It sounds easy, but don’t forget about plugged in equipment, Biosafety cabinets, and fume hoods. Equipment that is off but plugged in can still pull electricity.
  2. Unclutter your lab. You’ll be amazed at how many labs purchase items they already have. Every duplicate purchase includes packaging materials, energy associated with shipping, and wasted grant money.
  3. Look for alternatives to hazardous processes or chemicals. Just because you have used a certain procedure or chemical in your lab before, doesn’t mean it’s the best method. Google: “MIT Green Chemical Alternatives Purchasing Wizard”

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