Proper Chemical Waste Disposal: Posters & Memes

By Cookie Cho, Member-at-Large for the GCI

One of the unfortunately inevitable aspects of doing research is creating chemical waste. Previously, we have launched a Waste Awareness Campaign to try to reduce the amount of waste produced, and hosted a lecture on Chemical Waste FAQs to encourage proper waste disposal.

In the chemistry building at the University of Toronto, two general types of groups produce chemical waste: the research chemists, and undergraduate students.

Recently, the GCI partnered with UofT’s Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) office to develop and distribute an easy-to-follow waste disposal poster. This guide was designed to answer common questions about proper sorting of waste classes, and to make it easier for the research chemists to dispose of their chemical waste. These were then posted in all research labs throughout the chemistry building. We have received great feedback from many department members so far, including the researchers themselves and administrative staff!

waste poster

Fig. 1: Waste Disposal Poster, produced in partnership with EHS and GCI.

In order to guide the undergraduates, many of whom have never worked in a chemistry lab before, we developed a series of meme-themed posters to point out proper chemical disposal in undergraduate laboratories. Through the use of humour and easily recognized images, our goal was to help the undergraduates remember that proper disposal of chemical waste is the right thing to do. Here are some of the memes we developed.

Archer meme

Fig. 2: Archer meme – Chemical waste goes in waste containers, not down the drain!

Lumbergh meme

Fig. 3: Lumbergh meme – Lumbergh insists that chemical wastes be disposed of properly.

World's Most Interesting Man meme

Fig. 4: World’s Most Interesting Man disposes acid waste properly.

Currently, we are also collaborating with course instructors to develop more formal diagrams and materials, in order to better train new undergraduates on proper chemical waste disposal. We welcome any ideas that our readers may have! How is chemical waste disposal taught and encouraged at your institution?