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Science Recycling Program at University of Illinois-Chicago Turns Plastic into Plants

March 16, 2012

The day was sunny, 77 degrees with a light breeze in Chicago. Nature was friendly to us, so it was a perfect day to pay it forward. At the University of IL-Chicago, a green initiative has started to recycle plastic waste from Life Science & Medical research labs. Scientists have been anxiously waiting for an alternative option to throwing Pipet Tip Boxes (PTBs) in the garbage can. After all, plastic #5 is recyclable. (For those who don’t know, PTBs store pipet tips which are used to mix solutions during a science experiment) So on Pi Day (3/14 2012) scientists took a break from curing diseases and walked down in herds with bags & boxes, rolling carts, autoclaveable bins, and their hands full of pipet tip boxes.

conservation science blogger chicago

Superstar recycler Lisa Sanzenbacher has spearheaded this intiative. As Sustainability Analyst in the Department of Environmental Health & Safety Lisa has developed a very convenient and financially sustainable system for removing plastic from landfills. conservation science blogger chicagoPTB’s will be recycled into agricultural trays used to grow new plants. It’s a wonderful, well thought out system that I hope becomes adopted by research institutions around the country. She will be presenting this project at the Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference in Maryland next month. Thank you Lisa!

As for the day’s events, food & coffee were provided by university vendors (MIDSCI, Pall, and VWR). Scientists had the opportunity to learn more about recycling in their lab. Saving plastic from landfills shouldn’t be limited to PTB’s, but include other forms of general waste such as bottles, plastic bags, disposable dishware, etc. So a representative from Recycling Services Inc was on hand to dish out the know-how on what to recycle vs what to place in the garbage can.

As for my game–Who Can Fill A Box of #PipetTips The Fastest?–we had 24 people participate. The fastest time belongs to Adam B. from Digestive Diseases Department. Congrats! His time of 1 minute 30 seconds won him the $25 gift card to Bacino’s Pizza. Overall the average time was 1:51. Scientists, how fast can you do it?

conservation science blogger chicago

That’s all for this post, except for more pictures below. Thank you for reading and continue to be friendly to Mother Nature so that she’ll be friendly back to us. letUbeU!

photography and recycling chicago

Lisa & Tom taking a picture of each other taking a picture of each other.

pipet tip recycling chicago

Scientists love coffee!

life science recycling

Recycling in action.

finding happiness with science

Finding Happiness with Science

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2012 1:19 PM

    Very, very nice. We have so much waste in our lab — like pipette boxes, plastic bags, styrofoam, etc — that an initiative like this is very refreshing.

    • March 16, 2012 1:22 PM

      Good to hear. Which university are you from?


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