For Life Sciences Organizations, Hazardous Waste Management Is ... A Hazard

To remain profitable and innovative in today’s environment, life sciences organizations must make important decisions about how they are investing time and resources on core capabilities like research, and how to avoid being sidetracked by noncore functions like lab management. In some cases, this means reexamining methods for handling high-risk functions such as the disposal of hazardous materials. Consider these three threats when determining how to handle critical hazardous waste materials:

  • Threats to people: All it takes is a bit of carelessness or inexperience to turn a hazardous waste storage and collection area into a danger zone, such as a deadly chemical reaction, a quick-spreading fire, or a treacherous spill. Radioactive waste, in particular, requires special handling and education, and employees who are not property trained on managing this unique type of waste could be at risk of exposure to unsafe levels of radiation.
  • Threats to the bottom line: Hazmat disposal requires compliance with stringent federal and state regulations that, when not followed correctly, could result in heavy fines. Life sciences organizations can be fined for using the wrong shipping codes, filling out documentation incorrectly, improper shipping and handling, and not adhering to the mandated time frames for disposal of waste materials, among many other possible errors. One incident, however small, can result in tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Even worse, fines can be multiplied when the same violation occurs at each of an organization’s lab sites around the world.
  • Threats to research and innovation: Many organizations require their scientists to manage part of the hazmat disposal process, often asking them to physically carry the hazardous waste to a designated collection or consolidation area. This can be excessively time-consuming for scientists, in addition to a distraction from their research. Would you ask a physician to take out the trash instead of seeing more patients at a hospital? It’s not the best use of a valuable resource, and can ultimately result in a loss in scientific research.

Some life sciences organizations are looking to better manage these risks by outsourcing hazardous waste management to a third party. When selecting a third-party vendor, organizations need to make sure that prospective vendors have the expertise and experience needed to successfully handle the entire life cycle of hazardous waste, as well as effectively minimize the organization’s risk and maximize its lab or plant efficiency. In fact, an experienced hazardous waste management service provider should be able to deliver sustained annual cost savings of 10–20%. When more time and resources are committed to research, life sciences organizations can better service doctors, patients, and the business itself.

Mike Brody is Vice President, Supply Chain Management, for Jones Lang LaSalle’s Life Science practice, Chicago, IL, U.S.A.;; e-mail: