Pollution Prevention

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The University of Southern California is committed to protect human health and the environment by reducing waste at the source, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, and reusing materials rather than putting them into a waste stream.  The following programs are provided by EH&S to implement our Pollution Prevention and Hazardous Waste Source Reduction Plans.


Hazardous Waste Source Reduction

The EH&S Department enhances hazardous waste source reduction through laboratory safety training and other hazardous waste management training with an emphasis on the following topics:

  • Substitute highly hazardous chemicals with less hazardous chemicals
  • In place of utilizing chromerge or other harsh cleaning solvents substitute with less hazardous detergents
  • Reduce volume or toxicity of chemicals used in experiments
  • Scale down the experiments involving hazardous chemicals
  • Obtain compressed gas cylinders only from vendors who take back emptied or partially-filled cylinders
  • Control chemical inventory to better track chemical uses
  • The future implementation of chemical exchange program will redistribute surplus chemicals to other researchers who need them and reduce the hazardous waste
  • Good labeling practices promote the reduction of hazardous wastes
  • Development of a Waste Minimization Plan (see the Guidelines for details)

Battery Recycling

Common dry-cell batteries can create environmental problems and have been recognized as a major source of heavy metals such as: lead, mercury, cadmium, nickel, and lithium ion. As a result, batteries are considered a hazardous waste and regulated under universal waste. Used batteries are collected by EH&S for recycling or disposal as hazardous waste. The following rechargeable batteries should be collected by the EH&S Department and sent to a contracted vendor for recycling. Keep batteries out of trash by calling EH&S for recycling and appropriate disposal.

  • Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd)
  • Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH)
  • Lithium Ion (Li-ion)
  • Lead Acid (<2 lbs.)
  • Lead Battery

Electronic Waste Recycling

View the Universal Waste Fact Sheet

USC generates thousands of computers, monitors, fax machines, printers, and other electronic items that have become obsolete due to the rapid advances in technology and an expanding demand for new featured equipment. Computer and television monitors can contain lead, phosphorus, cadmium, barium, and mercury.  Circuit boards, batteries, and cathode ray tubes (CRTs) also contain lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium. A typical television or CRT monitor may contain up to 4 pounds of lead.

Federal and State regulations do not allow the disposal of e-waste in regular trash landfills because they contaminate soil and ground water. Electronic equipment that is no longer functioning may be collected by EH&S by requesting a Hazmat pickup or by calling (213)-740-7215 (UPC) or (323)-442-2225 (HSC) for recycling. For equipment that is still useful, contact Surplus Sales at (213)-743-4512 for a pickup.

Mercury Reduction

View the Mercury Hazard and Replacement Guidelines

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that poses a harmful property to humans and the environment. Once inorganic forms of mercury get into the sewer system, they can be transformed into organic mercury forms through microorganisms in sediment and bioaccumulated in the environment. These bioaccumulated organic forms of mercury make it particularly hazardous to humans and animals.

  • Removal of Mercury Containing Devices – Mercury is commonly used in laboratory equipment such as thermometers and pressure gauges. The replacement of mercury containing devices with a non-toxic substitute becomes more readily available and easier to use.
  • Fluorescent Light Tube Recycling – Fluorescent light tubes contain mercury, and can pose an environmental hazard when disposed of improperly in the regular trash can. Recycling used lamps is desirable over land filling or incineration, since these tubes may eventually contaminate soils and ground water. The University manages used fluorescent lamps as a restricted waste and EH&S collects and sends them to an approved recycler.

Silver Recovery

USC generates photochemical wastes from X-ray and photo processes which may contain silver nitrate. The photo chemicals can either be treated by a silver recovery system or picked up by EH&S as a hazardous waste.

Chemical Solvents for Fuel

Chemical solvents such as toluene, xylene, benzene, and other solvents are collected from research and clinical laboratories and fuel-blended for use in cement kilns.

Non-Hazardous Solid Waste Stream Management by Building and Ground Services

Mandated by the SB 939, the USC Building and Ground Services manages solid waste streams and diverts 50% from landfills through:

  • Recycling (paper, aluminum, glass, plastic, metal, cardboard, etc.)
  • Conversion (waste-to-energy conversion plant in Commerce, CA)
  • Material Recovery (wastes are sent to a material recovery facility)