Wasting Millions on Waste: How Efficient Chemical Management Can Lead to Greater Gains

chemical management
Chemical waste is costly for research organizations and potentially hazardous. Chemical management systems, however, can significantly reduce the amount of chemical waste generated.
Image source: Flickr user Aidan.

Waste is generated each day: there is food waste, water waste and for chemical companies and laboratories, chemical wastes of which expired chemicals form the bulk.1 Part of the cause is that lab managers will often order large quantities of chemicals and they are kept beyond their expiration date. Unfortunately, despite an attempt to save money on chemicals, laboratories and organizations often end up spending more to dispose of expired chemicals. For those companies that use specialty chemicals in food products, expired chemicals can be potentially lethal.

To prevent such waste, research organizations and companies should carefully consider the use of chemical management software that monitors the flow of chemicals within an institution “from cradle-to-grave.” More specific benefits of a carefully monitored chemical management system include the following:

Experimental design: Part of the benefit of a chemical management system is lab managers can avoid purchasing excessive amounts of stock chemical products that will likely expire before their use. Lab members and workers, knowing that there is a limited supply of experimental materials, can plan more efficient and useful experimental protocols in order to maximize the use of available materials.2

Safety—for the lab and environment: Expired chemicals can generate volatile molecules that can threaten the safety of lab members and the environment at large in terms of proper disposal. For example, when hydrogen fluoride is stored over two years, it reacts with iron to form hydrogen gas which can eventually rupture the bottle, creating a very threatening situation.3 Beyond costs resulting from necessary chemical disposal, an inefficient (or, in some cases, nonexistent) chemical management system can seriously compromise the safety of everyone in the lab, while generating byproducts that can harm the environment. As unused chemicals linger in labs, beyond the compromise in their chemical stability, there are very common “human factors” that can threaten their usability. These factors become especially important when there are excess chemicals.4 For example, excess bottles are more likely to become contaminated by pipette tips or from dust or other elements.

Compliance: Labs can be closed for many reasons, including improper chemical storage, and a suspension can significantly impact the work done by lab members. In order to ensure compliance, chemical management software can often provide necessary support. Many chemical management systems can even be set up to notify laboratories when hazardous waste removal companies should be contacted when containers are full or have expired, as well as notify of other concerns.5

Savings: One of the most obvious benefits of decreasing the amount of waste from expired chemicals is the cost savings for labs. As the amount of grant money continues to decrease for many labs and companies tighten their budgets for research and development, it becomes essential that organizations use resources wisely. Furthermore, the effective use of funds opens up opportunities to apply savings toward other uses, including research, hiring and other necessities, which together help drive innovation.

Every lab or organization that works with chemicals should have a chemical management system in place to support its efforts, while also helping to maintain the health and safety of employees. For large corporations with multiple users at multiple facilities, BIOVIA CISPro offers a complete solution to chemical management that includes compliance and regulatory support as well as safety measures and the opportunity to minimize overall waste. The software can also be managed remotely and inventories can be overseen for individual units, yet under a single company. To learn more about the many ways BIOVIA CISPro can improve your work with chemicals, please contact us today.

  1. ”Chemical Safety in the Laboratory,” 1994, https://books.google.com/books?id=DOd1iU7G0FMC&pg=PA82&lpg=PA82&dq=cost+of+expired+chemicals&source=bl&ots=Q52uErWrGd&sig=l_sLNCCrIU8AlQWJbKBW5DYNc4E&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDkQ6AEwBGoVChMI6dKJ-eXHyAIVhJMeCh05rQI_#v=onepage&q=cost%20of%20expired%20chemicals&f=false
  2. “Laboratory Chemical Management Program,” http://qbena.com/media/2837/2613%20Laboratory%20Chemical%20Management.pdf
  3. “Managing Chemical Life Cycles,” April 7, 2009, http://www.labmanager.com/lab-health-and-safety/2009/04/managing-chemical-life-cycles?fw1pk=2#.ViFtArRViko
  4. “Shelf Life vs. Expiration Date of a Chemical Standard,” http://www.inorganicventures.com/shelf-life-vs-expiration-date-chemical-standard
  5. “Managing Chemical Life Cycles,” April 7, 2009, http://www.labmanager.com/lab-health-and-safety/2009/04/managing-chemical-life-cycles?fw1pk=2#.ViFtArRViko

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