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Agricultural Teaching Labs: Preventing Pollution
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Operations
Reasons for Change
Preventing Pollution
Where To Go for Help
Acknowledgements
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

Research and Educational Laboratory Waste Reduction
Introduction to P2 in an educational laboratory with suggestions for basic best management practices...

Small Business Waste Reduction Guide
Overview, tip sheets, case studies, checklists and regulations pertaining to many teaching lab activ...


Pollution prevention is as easy as good housekeeping, keeping equipment well maintained or switching to a less hazardous product. The hardest part is usually changing habits. Specific examples for reducing common wastes are presented here with resources cited for more detailed information (links go to external resources). A general overview of pollution prevention opportunities is given at the end. In all waste reduction and pollution prevention efforts, keep in mind the waste management hierarchy: 

  • first reduce -- look for ways to avoid generating waste 
  • if some waste is generated, reuse as much as possible on site
  • if there is still some waste left, recycle or dispose of it properly

Specific Suggestions:

Get a realistic overview of wastes generated by a particular teaching area so each can be addressed. A tool for evaluating present practices and wastes is the Laboratory Self-Audit. Create a formal or informal management system to deal with wastes. (See: Environmental Management Systems for more information.)

Parts cleaning solvents

can be conserved by pre-cleaning parts with reused solvent. This reduces solvent purchases so it also saves money. Minimize costs and regulatory liabilities even further by switching to aqueous cleaning solutions in mechanical labs -- see Aqueous Parts Cleaning. There are a number of solvent alternatives available that are not as harmful to the environment -- see Guide to Cleaner Technologies - Alternatives to Chlorinated Solvents for Cleaning and Degreasing

For crops, prevent soil erosion and water pollution by practicing small-scale conservation tillage, where plots are tilled minimally or not at all. Soil remains protected by plant residues providing food for microorganisms and increasing organic matter. See Conservation Tillage Facts for more information. Incorporating manures, organic material and fertilizers into soils can improve structure, conserve water and reduce erosion. See Land Application of Livestock and Poultry Manures for more information.

Consider low-pressure and drip irrigation in farm plots to reduce evaporative water losses and improve delivery to soil and root zone. For information on designing and selecting the most practical irrigation system see Factors to Consider in Selecting a Farm Irrigation System.

For livestock, prevent soil erosion and water pollution by limiting livestock access to streams. Create designated crossing and watering areas or use alternative sources (stock tanks). Locate confinement facilities and use buffers and filter strips to prevent runoff from entering nearby surface water. See EPA's 2003 CAFO rule guidance for more information.

Reduce paint-contaminated wastes by: laundering used shop towels and rags, using reusable paint mixing cups and sticks, filtering and reusing solvents and paint thinners, and using water-based, low VOC coatings whenever possible. For more information, see Paints, Solvents and Wood Preservatives.

Reduce pesticide use and expenses and maximize production in the greenhouse and farm plot by using a balance of pest prevention and control techniques. This approach is know as integrated pest management (IPM) -- see Integrated Pest Management for more information. Store pesticides safely -- see Pesticide Storage and Mixing Facilities for more information.

Reuse of materials on site is often overlooked but can significantly reduce waste disposal. Also consider obtaining supplies or distributing unneeded items through local materials exchange programs. To find materials exchanges, go to Materials Exchanges on the Web.

The following materials can often be recycled: scrap metal, aluminum cans, glass, and engine-related fluids such as oil, antifreeze, and coolants. Plant materials can be composted; manure can be used as fertilizer. For more information on reuse and recycling see:

Reduce building material waste by buying only what is needed and using it efficiently; "measure twice and cut once." Sort scraps according to size and type so it's easy to find a smaller piece when needed. More information can be found at: Efficient Wood Use in Residential Construction

Protect water quality in greenhouse operations through irrigation and fertilizer management, pesticide reduction and proper use of cleaning products and disinfectants. See Water Quality Handbook for Nurseries for more information.

Avoid exposure to dust in cabinet-type sand-blasters. The dust generated is classified by the EPA as an air pollutant and harmful to human health. Use wet sanding methods and amorphous silicas rather than crystalline silicas for blasting. For more information on alternatives and risks see: Preventing Silicosis and Deaths in Construction Workers.

General Prevention Measures

Air Quality - Periodically test and maintain ventilation systems for efficiency and provide safety equipment for facility users. 

Energy Use - Weatherize facilities appropriate for the climate. Replace inefficient lighting. Maintain equipment regularly to insure optimum performance. Turn off the power when equipment and lights are not in use. Become an Energy Star School

Inventory Control - Track inventory carefully to prevent over-purchasing and exceeding expiration dates. All materials should be clearly labeled, dated and stored in an area where weather and leaks can be easily controlled.  Purchase in bulk and look for less hazardous products. For more information on making purchasing decisions that prevent pollution see the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Guide.

Noise Pollution - Periodic machinery inspections can identify potential or existing problems. Install sound-reducing materials on building walls and keeping outside doors closed. OSHA has established guidelines for noise levels in all public facilities and ear protection should be used whenever noise exceeds recommended levels. 

Water Quality - Never dispose of hazardous waste in a storm drain or septic system. All substances should be clearly identifed as safe or unsafe for the municipal treatment system. Contact the local wastewater treatment plant for information. Wastewater may need to be tested or pretreated. Prevent runoff from animal confinement areas. 

Water Conservation - Use a broom and/or vacuum to clean floors instead of water (also minimizes the amount of wastewater generated). Fix leaking faucets immediately and install water-conserving fixtures. When washing vehicles and equipment, turn off hose between rinses. 

Occupant Safety - Reduce exposure to hazardous material by: 

  • Wearing impermeable gloves, protective clothing, goggles or glasses with side shields to reduce dermal exposure. 
  • Avoid breathing vapors, mists, or aerosols by providing NIOSH/MSHA-approved respirators.
  • Use OSHA/NIOSH approved hearing protection. 
  • Use a maintenance program to ensure optimal equipment operating efficiency. 
  • Provide training in hazardous waste management practices for laboratory users. Prevent improper mixing and handling.
  • Have Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) readily accessible for all substances used in the lab and know how to use them. Material Safety Data Sheet Fact Sheet

 

The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Agricultural Teaching Labs Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Center
Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Center
Contact email: information@peakstoprairies.org

Hub Last Updated: 5/15/2013