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EHS Chemical Surplus Program Promotes Reuse

Before you order that ethanol anhydrous….

Right now, in research labs across the campus, there are some 16,779 unique chemicals in use. With that kind of volume, there is always a little extra.

To help track surplus reagents that may be sitting un-used in one lab, but are needed by other researchers down the hall or across campus, the Environmental Health & Safety Department (EHS) has built an online sharing tool into their Chemical Environmental Management System (CEMS).

“It’s a relatively new feature to our system and we want to encourage more people to use it,” said. Jo-Ann Ranslow, CHMM, chemical and laboratory safety manager for EH&S.  “We believe there’s a lot more surplus out there that we could add to the inventory for others to use.”

The “surplus inventory” tool is accessible only by approved laboratory personnel through the EHS intranet site. Over the past 14 months, some 58 liters of chemical reagents have been transferred between labs through the surplus system. That material would have cost $2,834 to purchase new; and if those chemicals had sat on shelves until eventually being thrown out, the disposal costs would have been $730.

“These are expensive chemicals to purchase, and they are considered hazardous waste, so disposal costs are high,” Ranslow said. “So, our goal with the surplus program is to help reduce the costs on both ends of the Chemical Management Program by promoting reuse.”

The first step is for lab personnel who currently use CEMS to maintain the inventory of active chemicals in their lab, to post their surplus inventory. Before buying new reagents, lab personnel can search the surplus inventory for the specific chemicals they need. The tool also allows users to sign up for email alerts when new chemicals are added to the surplus inventory.

Sharing the surplus chemicals using CEMS can be a peer-to-peer process for researchers who work relatively close to each other, Ranslow said.  “If it’s just down the hall, then lab staff who know the protocol can safely relocate the chemicals. But for longer distances, and certainly beyond the immediate lab area or to another building, we will be happy to relocate the materials safely for them,” Ranslow said.

To get more information about the surplus program, visit the EHS team table at the Earth Day celebration on April 25. Or email EHS staffers or

Photo:  From the left, Jo-Ann Ranslow, Stephen Tutto and Alex Beaudoin go over the surplus inventory program.