Meghan Puglia, Assistant Professor of Neurology, received a Trust grant for the Transformative Autism Biomarker Research Initiative, studying babies in the NICU to detect early indicators of autism. A few years later, Zack Landsman, Systems Engineering PhD student, received a Trust grant for his work to recycle plastic waste and electronic equipment, creating them into new materials.
Zack and Meghan were previous collaborators on another project, so when UVA Today featured Zack’s work to add recycling capabilities to UVA and Charlottesville, Meghan contacted him with a plastic waste “gold mine”.
“Meghan has been one of my favorite collaborators as she shows great passion for her work. The plastic recycling collaboration began after one email from Meghan and has jumpstarted all of our work! This story is a perfect example of waste stream identification helping to create an entire process. Our sights are currently set on blue wrap, a polypropylene hospital staple that, accounts for an estimated 19% of all operating room waste by weight,” shares Zack.
Many labs produce a large amount of discarded pipette tips that aren’t often recycled and end up in a landfill. “They are a perfect starter item, all the same plastic, well labeled, require no cleaning (sticker removal on some), and come in cool colors” shares Zack.
Since Zack’s team began collection, they have worked to refine their recycling process. They sort by color, type, and size, then shred the plastics and re-sort based on manufacturing needs.
Zack has formed a partnership with the School of Architecture to supply them with recycled plastics and is working with UVA Sustainability and Green Labs to increase contributions from labs across Grounds.