Several research laboratories utilize acetonitrile in High-Performance Liquid Chromotography (HPLC). Most HPLC waste contains large amounts of water (up to 90%). This makes the waste expensive to dispose of for two reasons. First, water increases the volume of waste to be disposed; second, the presence of water decreases the thermal value, requiring incineration of the waste solvent.
Environmental Health & Safety project goal for acetonitrile is to implement solvent distillation to reduce hazardous waste generation. Researchers benefit by reusing the distilled acetonitrile by reducing solvent purchases. This project began in September 1998.
The acetonitrile distillation program was initiated through waste minimization assessments. Laboratories generating acetonitrile waste responded with great interest and are participating in the program. Some have even altered laboratory processes to accommodate (separate alcohol out) the distillation program. These laboratories have also assisted with the implementation of quality control (containers for reuse) and methods used to measure quality of distilled solvent. Since the start up of the program the two largest generators have not had to purchase acetonitrile for use.
1,403 liters per year of acetonitrile were recovered.
Details of Reductions
Additional Information :
In the last four months, the acetonitrile distillation program produced 51 liters of reusable acetonitrile from 535 liters of HPLC waste. A solvent reuse value of $1,122 for 1998 was shown to researchers and disposal savings of $140 to the university. C