Zebra printers for COVID-19 tests find new homes

Recycling interns Joe Downie, Sarah Maher and Brooke Nichols.
Zebra printer

You might wonder what happens to all the special equipment that gets purchased in a pandemic.

Twenty-nine Zebra Barcode Printers were purchased when UIC began campus saliva-based COVID testing in August 2020. Zebras use thermal imaging to create barcodes. Thermal printers use a solid ink ribbon, they don’t smudge and the print lasts a long time.

In January 2021, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Innovation changed the hardware, and as a result, they had about $20,000 worth of printers and supplies (ribbons, labels and other accessories) in need of a new home. Stacey Valuch, assistant director for innovation, approached multiple departments to see if they could use them and gave away 10. UI Health upgraded the hardware but had no need for these printers.

So, she reached out to Cynthia Klein-Banai, assistant vice chancellor and director of sustainability, knowing that the sustainability program handles the exchange of unused products for other departments’ use. These programs include the Great Stuff Exchange (office supplies)  and Lab Share (laboratory supplies).

Sustainability agreed to try to find new homes for the printers. They posted them in Rheaply, an asset exchange manager for sharing materials and resources. Just over one month later, Joe Iosbaker, recycling coordinator, began receiving requests for them from several departments, including the College of Pharmacy. A lab there launched new software and needed 14, plus supplies. Emilie Giacobbe, an analytical forensic toxicology specialist from Pharmaceutical Sciences, estimated the value of the printers at $600 each.

Her lab saved roughly $9000 from participating in UIC’s circular economy.

For more information about the Office of Planning, Sustainability and Project Management’s materials’ exchange programs go to https://sustainability.uic.edu/green-campus/recycling/ and click on Great Stuff Exchange or LabShare.

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