Debbie Knight

Archive for June, 2013|Monthly archive page

Greener pastures for unwanted lab equipment ?

In research issue(s), Uncategorized on June 12, 2013 at 2:12 pm


My department has had some faculty turnover. Some have retired. Some have found positions elsewhere.

This means there have been several labs I’ve helped clean out.  And I’ve seen quite a bit of laboratory equipment, much of it functional, taken to “surplus.”

Now in concept that sounds pretty good. You send stuff to a surplus warehouse where other labs can go and possibly acquire the cast-off equipment. The ultimate in recycling and reusing, right?

Well, the reality is that at my institution the surplus warehouse only takes office furniture and office equipment. The lab equipment is sent to the landfill – even if it’s functional.

When I found this out a few months ago, it was a major reality check.

I thought back to how many things my department has sent to surplus in just the last few months. Had I known, I would’ve tried harder to find a lab that could’ve used it.

So, this week, a faculty member who is moving to a smaller lab space said to me, “Oh, we’re sending that to surplus.” And he had absolutely no idea what it really meant. The landfill.

One of the items was a perfectly functional biosafety cabinet. (For those who don’t know what this piece of equipment is: it’s sort of a big metal cabinet with a filtered ventilation system that allows you to safely work with cells, tissues, viruses, and other possible biohazardous materials .)

I couldn’t see one more senseless disposal of an expensive piece of equipment. These things, new, can cost thousands of dollars.

So, I used my connections and managed to find it a new lab home.

I’m also trying to find a new home for a big floor-model centrifuge. I’ve had a couple of nibbles, but so far no takers. But I’m hopeful that I’ll succeed. Research money is tight and someone out there must need a centrifuge.

I wish there was a way to easily put functional lab equipment up for adoption at my institution. A centralized warehouse, a website, I don’t know.

And for the equipment that no longer works? Maybe that could be put up for adoption as well. It could be cheaper to repair broken equipment than to buy new.

Or maybe functional or not, unwanted equipment could be sold on eBay and serve as an additional source of revenue for my institution.

Update: Good news! Found a new lab home for the centrifuge. I may have cast my net a little too wide because I’m still getting emails from various labs saying they are interested in taking this centrifuge.