Project Summary

Two microbiologists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were concerned about the landfill waste being generated from the plastic containers used in lab experiments. To make their labs green, they developed a procedure that autoclaves and sterilizes the plastic making it safe to recycle, resulting in 13,772 pounds of recycled plastic.

Project Team

Team Members
Sandy Steiner, CDC
Sandy Martin, CDC
Kathy Slawson, CDC

Project Details

Concerned about the landfill waste being generated from the plastic containers being used in lab experiments, two microbiologists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a new procedure to make lab containers, which formerly held bio-hazardous material, safe for recycling.

They worked with the CDC’s Biosafety Office to create a procedure that would autoclave and sterilize the plastics so that they would no longer pose a biosafety threat.

Implementation of the sterilization process was an innovative step that allowed large amounts of lab plastics to be recycled rather than sent to landfills.

In a 16-month period, a total of 13,772 pounds of solid plastic waste was recycled from the first four laboratories.  Through the laboratory recycling program, 6.7 percent of laboratory waste is now being diverted from the landfill.  Currently, the program is being expanded to six new laboratories.


HHS Innovates is one of the ways we are building an innovative culture at the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS Innovates is a contest that recognizes and rewards action taken on good ideas. To date, HHS employees have submitted nominations of innovations for nearly 500 exciting new staff-driven innovative projects, and our employees have cast over 60,000 votes to select 42 finalists over seven rounds. This project is one of the finalists of HHS Innovates. Learn more about HHS Innovates.