null Earth Day 2024 at the RI-MUHC: Towards greater sustainability

Organization-wide teamwork is reducing the environmental footprint of research

April 19, 2024
Source: RI-MUHC

April 22 marks Earth Day, an annual worldwide event dedicated to advocating environmental protection and fostering sustainable practices. The move towards greater sustainability at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) continues to grow, involving teams across the organization.

The Technical Services team at the RI-MUHC is spearheading the recently expanded Sustainability Team, whose role is to drive initiatives aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of research. This team leads initiatives for the recycling of equipment, different types of plastic, nitrile gloves and glass, reducing waste sent to landfill, and responsible disposal of unwanted materials, as well as improving energy efficiency of cold storage and other areas in research environments.

Recycling research equipment

The RI-MUHC launched a large equipment recycling effort in 2023. Obsolete equipment and furniture items were identified across both the Glen and Montreal General Hospital (MGH) sites, then cleaned and inspected before processing by a third-party recycling partner, MultiRecycle. In the first year, this initiative redirected a total of 5,109 kilograms of diverse waste out of landfill and into recycling streams.

In 2024 the RI-MUHC has relaunched this equipment recycling initiative. Designated bins strategically positioned at the Glen, MGH, and 5252 de Maisonneuve sites facilitate equipment disposal. These bins will remain in place until the week of April 29. Redundant biomedical equipment will undergo inspection and disinfection before removal and recycling.

Diana Karina Toscano Rivero, PhD Candidate in Experimental Medicine, Jana Abi Rafeh, PhD Candidate in Experimental Medicine and Chadi Nassar, Facilities Coordinator
Ambassadors Diana Karina Toscano Rivero, PhD Candidate in Experimental Medicine and Jana Abi Rafeh, PhD Candidate in Experimental Medicine and Chadi Nassar, Facilities Coordinator

International Freezer Challenge

Participation in the International Freezer Challenge is another significant milestone for sustainability at the RI-MUHC. This annual competition champions best practices in cold storage management and has proven to be very effective in energy conservation and cost savings in laboratory environments. In 2023 the McGill Office of Sustainability announced that the Specimen Processing Laboratory at the RI-MUHC’s Centre for Innovative Medicine was the first-place winner of the International Freezer Challenge among all the university’s participants.

The 2024 Freezer Challenge is under way. Multiple research programs at the RI-MUHC have embraced this competition, with a significant increase in participation across the organization. As an additional incentive, this year the highest-performing RI-MUHC program will be able to replace an energy-inefficient item with a new, energy-efficient counterpart, courtesy of Technical Services.

Every small contribution is incremental!

— SUSTAIN Team, Technical Services, RI-MUHC

Longer life for lab coats

In another bid to curtail waste, the RI-MUHC has instituted enhanced monitoring of lab coat management procedures and workflows. Collaborating closely with Environmental Health and Safety as well as an external provider, program managers concluded that many lab coats previously reported as damaged were merely stained and amenable to cleaning and reuse.

Recycling non-biohazardous waste

First piloted in July 2023 by the RI-MUHC’s Translational Research in Respiratory Diseases (RESP) Program, another sustainability project aims to reduce waste by collecting and recycling non-biohazardous materials. In this initiative, materials included laboratory plastics, nitrile gloves and glass. As with the equipment recycling process, these items were collected on site, then managed by the firm Multirecycle, with 100% of the items being diverted from the waste stream and into recycling.

Building upon the achievements of the pilot project, this sustainability initiative to recycle laboratory plastics, gloves and glass has expanded in scope for 2024. Joining the RESP Program this year are three additional programs, the Metabolic Disorders and Complications Program, the Child Health and Human Development Program and the Cancer Research Program.

“All of these initiatives are a collective effort to minimize our environmental impact,” says the SUSTAIN team. “Every small contribution is incremental!”

Do you have an idea about how to further sustainability at the RI-MUHC or wish to participate in current efforts? Contact the Sustainability team at

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