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May 4, 2017

Division of Animal Resources (DAR) labs commended for waste diversion practices
By: Shannon Anderson, Intern, Office of Sustainability Initiatives

The Division of Animal Resources (DAR), headquartered in the Whitehead Biomedical Research Building, made strides in sustainability when they turned to recycling and composting laboratory materials and was recently recognized for its efforts.

Working through the Office of Sustainability Initiatives’ Green Labs Program, the DAR implemented recycling and composting in rooms where mice and rats are housed.

“We started composting all the bedding and recycling gloves, gowns, glass, and plastics,” Maya Meeks, Veterinary Technician in the DAR, said. “The amount of waste we send to the landfill has been decreasing every year.”

When DAR Director, Michael Huerkamp, approached Meeks about introducing new sustainable methods in the research labs, she jumped at the opportunity.

“The Green Labs Program aligns with my personal goals in living a greener lifestyle and having a smaller footprint,” Meeks said. “We’re entering a new phase where it’s becoming even more important to take care of the planet and not dump everything. We create a lot of trash.”

According to Huerkamp, who serves as the official Sustainability Representative for the building, the facility generates about 20 tons of rodent bedding each month. The research facility worked with Emory’s Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHSO) and determined that the bedding material was not hazardous. After sending the bedding to be composted, it is turned into a soil amendment that is used by Facilities Management for landscaping on Emory’s campus.

The hard work of all involved in this process has not gone unnoticed. Review by peers from the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) was completed in February.

“Every three years we have peers come in from facilities like ours and cite eight things they think are positive and extraordinary about our program,” Huerkamp said. “Us being out in front on [sustainability] was one of those things.”

Huerkamp, jokingly known to colleagues as the “face of composting at Emory,” recognizes that their success would not have been possible without cooperation from many people and groups.

“No one person or one organization within Emory could have done it. Together, we’ve lived up to our vision to be admired as a university for setting standards. We were recognized because we are setting a standard in our field,” Huerkamp said.

Working with groups across campus and beyond, Huerkamp is looking towards innovative practices for the future, including new technologies in carbon dioxide measurements and air change rates, and greener practices for disposing of animal remains.

“Change and the strange scare us, and this is different,” Huerkamp said. “There can be hazards involved, and we do have to be careful about protecting people, animals, the environment and the community."


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