The University of Oregon generates approximately 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of hazardous chemical waste every year.

Environmental Health & Safety on campus work with academia, research and administration to manage and regulate environmental programs.

So what exactly is hazardous waste and where does it go?

According to Craig Biersdorff, who manages the safe use and proper disposal of hazardous materials on campus, there are two ways to define hazardous waste.

“One is by the listing in the regulations (specifically by name) and the other is exhibiting the characterizations of ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity and toxicity,” Biersdorff said.

It is important to have basic knowledge about hazardous waste and the consequences of a simple action. “Hazardous wastes improperly handled can lead to harmful exposures to individuals and the environment,” Biersdorff said.

UO takes care of the hazardous waste by properly identifying the waste, collecting it as directed and then disposing of it properly depending on the waste product.

The university has a designated location for the storage of hazardous chemical waste before it is shipped off site.

“If placed in a local landfill, it can impact the environment by leaching to ground waste. Hazardous waste in the sanitary sewers can interfere with procedures at the municipal treatment facilities. Hazardous waste in storm water drains can lead to pollution in local rivers,” Biersdorff said.

Gwynn Daniels is the Department Director of Environmental Health & Safety.

“Due to the volume of hazardous chemical waste generated, the UO is designated as a “Large Quantity Generator” by the EPA and Oregon DEQ, as is the case for any large research university,” Daniels said. “As a Large Quantity Generator, UO must ship hazardous waste off site at least every 90 days and for maintaining proper documentation in compliance with the ‘cradle to grave’ responsibility for hazardous chemicals.”

The “cradle to grave” responsibility is the company responsibility for dealing with the hazardous waste and overall pollution control from creation to the final disposal.

The Environmental Health & Safety programs at UO put providing education and programs to help reduce the volume of hazardous chemical waste produced on campus as one of its highest priorities.

“This is accomplished through substitution with less hazardous chemicals (e.g., “green chemistry”) and by managing a chemical re-use program in collaboration with the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry,” Daniels said.

As a nationally recognized leader in environmental awareness of university students, the UO supports the creation of a bridge between the campus and the community.

“I think the most important thing for everyone to understand is that safety is their responsibility and to use a common sense approach in making safety a consideration in everything they do,” Daniels said.

Hallie Hoskins keeps employees protected from hazardous materials that are often encountered in their jobs, as well as advising researchers on safe work with microorganisms and human pathogens.

“UO has some regulatory requirements for this work, such as the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard and the NIH Guidelines, so I help make sure we are complaint,” Hoskins said.

Biosafety professionals develop and participate in programs to promote safe microbiological practices and procedures and proper use of equipment and facilities.

“We achieve this by establishing safe containment controls, equipment usage, work practices and personal protective equipment,” Hoskins said.

Everyone at the university who generates waste has a responsibility to make sure our campus community stays safe.

“The best advice I can give is to routinely wash your hands,” Hoskins said.

Follow Hailey Geller on Twitter @hgeller30

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