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Chemistry Graduate Student Receives UGA Sustainability Grant for Full Circle Project

Friday, February 25, 2022 - 5:59pm
project logo showing illustrations of various small lab items on a background of curved green arrowsof

UGA Department of Chemistry Ph.D. Candidate Lily Birx recently received a 2022 Campus Sustainability Grant from the Office of Sustainability for her project "Full Circle: Minimization & Diversion of Waste in UGA Research Laboratories." As a researcher in Dr. Ron Orlando’s lab in the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center (CCRC), Lily has diverted and reduced the lab’s waste by 85% while working with UGA Green Labs. The Full Circle project aims to serve as a model highlighting that research enterprises and laboratories can be more sustainable.

Regarding the inspiration for the project, Ms. Birx says, "Research scientists and laboratories have largely gone unnoticed as major producers of waste. This group is also one of the largest users of single use plastics. The novel experiments, reactions, and projects done every day come at a large environmental price as much of this material is not being recycled. With the effects of climate change looming and happening, research enterprises must do their part to reduce their impact."

While working within the current framework of UGA’s waste management operations, the project aims to divert participating research lab’s waste by at least 65%, evaluate the use and scale of plastic waste, and promote a low-waste and circular economy approach in UGA research. This diversion rate will be achieved by performing a full waste stream analysis of four research labs at UGA for 10 weeks. Throughout the project, labs will be consulted on how to reduce waste, and implement changes to promote a more circular economy approach.

The project is in partnership with UGA Green Labs, Facilities Management Division, and Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste. To learn more about the Full Circle project, please contact Ms. Birx at lilybirx@uga.edu.

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