HWTR Pollution Prevention

My Watershed

CellNetix Pathology and Laboratories

CellNetix Logo

Reducing, Reusing, Recycling…… and Saving Money

The Company
CellNetix, a pathology laboratory in Seattle, provides a full range of laboratory services to health care providers and patients. Since 2012, CellNetix has been leading its industry in preventing pollution, reducing, reusing, and recycling waste.

The Results
CellNetix estimates the company saved as much as $180,000 annually as a result of their Pollution Prevention Planning, and the technical assistance from Department of Ecology. They achieved these savings by conducting on-site recycling, finding beneficial uses for waste materials, and changing some purchasing practices.  Dave Simpkins, CellNetix Safety Officer, sums it up, “people need to realize that you can find solutions that are socially and ethically responsible and save money by doing so.  That’s a simple choice”.  

How They Did It
Reducing and Recycling Solvents and Chemical Waste: Solvents are used throughout the histology (cell study) laboratory. One solvent, xylene is a highly dangerous aromatic hydrocarbon used in processing tissue and staining slides. Alcohols are used in tissue processing and as a solvent for various dyes. Through recycling, CellNetix recovered 407 gallons of xylene and 522 gallons of ethanol in the first seven months of 2012. From January through July 2012, solvent recycling saved the company more than $4,600, and the savings continue to add up.


"Diagnostic microscopy of a patient specimen"

Formalin is used to preserve tissue for routine histologic analysis. CellNetix preserved more than 219,500 specimens in 2011, using a great deal of formalin.  Most of the formalin becomes so contaminated it is difficult to recover. Still, CellNetix recovered 539 gallons of their waste formalin through recycling; from January 2012 through July of 2012, recycling formalin saved the company more than $2,500.

Diaminobenzidine (DAB) is a potent mutagen (can cause damage to genetic material).  CellNetix targeted this chemical for waste reduction.  This waste stream consists of an oil portion and an aqueous portion. Previously, it was taken by waste haulers and treated as a solid waste.  CellNetix started separating the waste stream into its component parts - oil and water.  The oil portion is still treated as a solid waste off site.  The aqueous portion is treated by approved methods that render the DAB inert.  In 2011, rather than shipping 1,364 gallons off-site as waste, they reduced that amount to 285 gallons taken off-site, a reduction of nearly 80%.  Furthermore, CellNetix conducted laboratory analysis to determine the exact amounts of the treatment chemicals that were needed to render the DAB inert and adjusted their procedures to use only the minimum amount of chemical necessary. So, CellNetix has saved about $6,572 that would otherwise been spent shipping the waste stream offsite.

Recovering Precious Metals: Previously, CellNetix disposed of their silver nitrate solution – a waste from a staining process. David Simpkins, who oversees lab safety, developed a method of recovering the silver from this waste stream. Washington Department of Ecology and King County reviewed and approved this method and declared the recovered silver safe for reuse in jewelry or other art forms. 

CellNetix is now recovering 250 to 300 grams of silver per year. And, they save money on waste management because they no longer have to send silver nitrate waste offsite for treatment.  They are planning for a gold reclamation process no later than 2013.

Test tube

"Transferring a patient specimen to a tube for testing"

Diverting Waste from Landfill: CellNetix reduced packaging, conserved fuel, and saved money with the thoughtful application of chemistry: Pathology and histology services consume an enormous amount of formalin and not all of it can be recycled.  Standard industry practice is to neutralize formalin waste before disposal.  The typical commercial proprietary "neutralizing" product provides the user a 0.75 kilogram (kg) package that costs $16.00.  CellNetix switched to purchasing the product locally in 25 kg bags, which greatly reduces packaging and cross-country transportation costs. They now pay only $0.98 for the "same" 0.75 kg. – saving nearly 94% on the purchase price.

Reducing Plastic Waste: In 2011, CellNetix took a hard look at their plastic waste and began working with Mt. Baker Bio, a Seattle Life Science Products Manufacturer.  Their goal was to recycle, reuse, and redesign as much of their plastic waste as possible.  As a result, CellNetix recycled 1,768 pounds of plastic in 2011.  Thanks to Mt. Baker Bio's innovations, CellNetix continues to segregate and recycle plastic

CellNetix also now buys formalin, alcohol, and xylene in bulk 55-gallon reusable drums. This decreases the use of their own plastic reagent containers, and diminishes “single-use” containers.  It also reduces the number of shipments coming to CellNetix, which means less fuel used in transportation.

All of these changes have reduced waste, and prevented pollution – while cutting costs at the same time.  CellNetix continues to look for more ways to conserve resources while saving the company money.

Contacts and Resources


Cascade Columbia Distributing

Mt. Baker Bio