Landfill Diversion from Labs: Progress on Upstream Innovations

Kelly O'Day Weisinger, Emory University and Emory Healthcare
Ilyssa O. Gordon, Cleveland Clinic

Achieving sustainability in laboratory settings with regard to waste minimization and landfill diversion is a multifaceted challenge. Landfill diversion and sustainable purchasing goals are becoming more common among leading research, healthcare, and government institutions. Industries supplying laboratory products have made progress in enhancing their manufacturing processes and sustainability of their product lines. However, demands and constraints on researchers' time and budget limit their capacity to prioritize the laboratory's alignment with institutional sustainability goals and to identify the laboratory supplies with waste minimization qualities that fit their institutions landfill diversion or purchasing guidelines. Bringing together key stakeholders from institutions, laboratories, and industry to collaborate and transform the laboratory materials waste market is the next step in this journey. There is mutual accountability and responsibility to close the loop in this market.

This session will continue the conversation begun in the previous two years at I2SL. Members of the I2SL Landfill Diversion Working Group will present on progress toward challenges and opportunities that were raised in the last two sessions, followed by a facilitated brainstorming session to fill knowledge gaps, identify barriers to progress, identify opportunities for progress, and confirm priorities and next steps in reaching the goal of building a robust landfill diversion program in laboratories across the country. Two areas of focus will frame the conversation. In alignment with the Working Group's efforts to influence upstream product development and the impact on landfill diversion, the session will focus on opportunities and challenges related to the needs and responsibilities of: (1) manufacturers and suppliers toward development and marketing of materials that reduce landfill waste, and (2) end users of lab materials toward reduction of waste output and proper diversion of products from the landfill. The audience will be asked to engage in interactive dialogue to brainstorm solutions and industry innovations that can support landfill diversion in laboratories, contributing to a collective conversation that informs and spurs industry innovation. It is our hope that the outcomes of the symposium continue to produce tangible materials that support I2SL's mission and community of practice.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn about the environmental, social, and economic impacts of solid waste materials that come from research, healthcare, and teaching laboratories and why waste minimization and diversion from landfills is important.
  • Identify challenges and opportunities related to the diversion of solid waste materials from laboratories in diverse settings.
  • Engage in discussions on industry innovations.
  • Contribute to a brainstorming session and walk away with tangible ideas for building connections among key stakeholders, and setting and achieving goals for closing the loop on the production and disposal of laboratory materials and supplies.


Kelly O'Day Weisinger joined Emory in 2012, and as Assistant Director of Sustainability Initiatives she collaborates with Emory University and Healthcare leadership in fulfilling Emory's enterprise-wide sustainability vision. Kelly conducts staff outreach and engagement and works with university and healthcare departments on projects including waste minimization, energy and water use reduction, sustainable procurement, climate action, lab and office sustainability, and curriculum and research.

As founder of the Cleveland Clinic Greening the Labs Committee, Dr. Gordon facilitates and implements programs related to lab recycling, biohazardous waste reduction, and energy conservation. She has developed an online course for education on lab recycling and has mentored pathology residents on Greening the Labs projects. She is the Cleveland Clinic Liaison to the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council and is on the Advisory Committee of the Health Care Without Harm Physician Network.


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