CBG Biotech Blog

How Much Does Using a Solvent Distillation Unit in Your Lab Cost?

August 1, 2018 / by David A. Camiener

Lab Solvent Distillation Unit CostMost hospital, reference and university labs—whether histology, pathology, chemistry, cytology or veterinary—carefully evaluate capital expenditures, which are equipment costs that typically exceed $2,500. Lab managers need to be able to show hospital and university officials who approve capital expenses that these purchases provide long-term value to the organization and substantial economic benefits.

For better or worse, the sheer dollar amounts associated with a purchase often receive more attention than the long-term value that purchase provides.

Since solvent distillation units/stills are usually one of those closely reviewed capital expenditures, we want to provide some hard numbers you can use to prove the immediate economic benefits outweigh the upfront costs.

We also want to make clear that the numbers provided below are only estimates that will likely vary based on geographic location and other factors. However, even though these aren't exact numbers for every user, they are in the ballpark of what you can expect to pay—and save—when recycling solvents in your laboratory.

The Upfront Capital Cost

How much a solvent distillation unit will cost your lab is largely dependent on how much solvent volume you need to recycle onsite.


  • Light-volume solvent users who purchase a 2.5-gallon benchtop unit can expect to pay $14,000–$17,000
  • Moderate-volume solvent users who purchase a 5-gallon unit can expect to pay $17,000–$20,000
  • Heavy-volume solvent users who purchase a 10-gallon unit can expect to pay $22,000–$25,000

The Labor Costs

Operating the Solvent Distillation Unit: Whether you purchase a 2.5-gallon unit or a 10-gallon unit, each machine requires minimal staff attention—about 30 minutes per day. When you account for a lab technician's average hourly rate ($24–$29 per hour) and factor in healthcare costs and other employee benefits (that increase the rate to $29–$35 per hour) you can estimate that:


  • Direct labor tied to solvent distillation unit operation will cost your lab about $72.50–$89.50 per week, or about $3,770–$4,654 per year

Generating Purchase Orders for Solvent and Other Consumables: The costs tied to generating one purchase order can vary greatly. After considering all of the steps associated with this task, from the generation of a requisition to the purchase order's approval, you can expect:


  • Administrative labor tied to generating one purchase order will cost about $50–$90

It's important to note that with an onsite solvent distillation unit you'll actually be reducing your solvent/consumables purchase order costs by 90–95%.

Receiving Solvent and Other Consumables: Receiving costs will vary based on the volume and frequency of solvent being purchased. On average, an individual in receiving (who costs your lab $20–$22 per hour) will spend approximately 15 to 30 minutes receiving one shipment. This means:


  • Labor tied to receiving one shipment of solvent will cost about $10–$15

Again, this activity and its associated costs will be reduced by 90–95% when your lab recycles solvent onsite using a solvent distillation unit.

Stocking Solvent: Stocking costs tend to be a little higher than receiving costs because many solvents are hazardous and/or flammable. For light-volume solvent users, this frequently means the installation of a fire cabinet to store flammables; for heavier-volume users, this may require the purchase of various fire suppression systems, like sprinklers, and other items that add to infrastructure costs. For these reasons:


  • Labor tied to stocking solvent is about 50% more expensive compared to receiving it, which means it will cost about $20–$30 per shipment

This activity and its associated costs will also be reduced by 90–95% when your lab recycles solvent onsite.

Solvent Waste Disposal: When labs don't recycle their own solvents onsite they may pay steep sums for solvent disposal. This is because prior to the solvent waste being picked up by a third party, it often needs to be aggregated (combining 5-gallon waste containers into larger 55-gallon drums) and sorted (grouping wastes with similar boiling ranges together). When you combine those additional labor costs with waste disposal company fees, you can estimate:


  • Solvent waste disposal will cost up to 50% of the actual cost of the solvent itself

Labs that recycle their own solvent will only pay about one-tenth as much for solvent waste disposal. They may also reduce their EPA waste generator status through solvent recovery.

The Maintenance Costs

At CBG Biotech, we recommend that preventative maintenance (PM) be performed on our solvent recyclers once every two years (at least). During a preventative maintenance visit, skilled technicians clean and inspect a unit—replacing any parts or tubing and identifying any issues that may be negatively impacting its operation. On average:


  • A preventative maintenance visit will cost your lab $3,200 every two years, or about $1,600 per year

Why Your Lab Will Immediately Start Saving Substantially

Many of the costs associated with recycling solvents in your laboratory are recouped relatively quickly.

Below we've provided examples to show you why.

These examples show how much your lab can realistically save on solvent purchases, labor and waste disposal in one year. Examples provided include labs that use light, moderate and heavy volumes of both xylene and alcohol.


 Light Annual Usage of Xylene

Annual Usage

165 gallons

Cost Per Gallon

$12.00

Total Solvent Cost

$1,980

Annual Disposal Cost (estimated at $6.50/gallon)

$1,073

Direct Labor Savings

$3,770

Administrative Labor Savings

$600

Receiving/Stocking Savings

$300

Total Annual Solvent Purchase, Labor and Disposal Cost

$7,723

Projected Savings
with Recycling

Total Annual Cost: $3,053

Projected Recovery: 95%

Annual Savings With Recycling: $7,337


 Moderate Annual Usage of Xylene

Annual Usage

440 gallons

Cost Per Gallon

$11.50

Total Solvent Cost

$5,060

Annual Disposal Cost (estimated at $6.00/gallon)

$2,640

Direct Labor Savings

$3,770

Administrative Labor Savings

$600

Receiving/Stocking Savings

$300

Total Annual Solvent Purchase, Labor and Disposal Cost

$12,370

Projected Savings
with Recycling

Total Annual Cost: $12,370

Projected Recovery: 95%

Annual Savings With Recycling: $11,752


Heavy Annual Usage of Xylene

Annual Usage

880 gallons

Cost Per Gallon

$11.00

Total Solvent Cost

$9,680

Annual Disposal Cost (estimated at $5.50/gallon)

$4,840

Direct Labor Savings

$3,770

Administrative Labor Savings

$600

Receiving/Stocking Savings

$300

Total Annual Solvent Purchase, Labor and Disposal Cost

$19,190

Projected Savings
with Recycling

Total Annual Cost: $19,190

Projected Recovery: 95%

Annual Savings With Recycling: $18,231


Light Annual Usage of Alcohol

Annual Usage

110 gallons

Cost Per Gallon

$17.00

Total Solvent Cost

$1,870

Annual Disposal Cost (estimated at $7.50/gallon)

$825

Direct Labor Savings

$3,770

Administrative Labor Savings

$600

Receiving/Stocking Savings

$300

Total Annual Solvent Purchase, Labor and Disposal Cost

$7,365

Projected Savings
with Recycling

Total Annual Cost: $7,365

Projected Recovery: 90%

Annual Savings With Recycling: $6,629


Moderate Annual Usage of Alcohol

Annual Usage

330 gallons

Cost Per Gallon

$15.00

Total Solvent Cost

$4,950

Annual Disposal Cost (estimated at $6.50/gallon)

$2,145

Direct Labor Savings

$3,770

Administrative Labor Savings

$600

Receiving/Stocking Savings

$300

Total Annual Solvent Purchase, Labor and Disposal Cost

$11,765

Projected Savings
with Recycling

Total Annual Cost: $11,765

Projected Recovery: 90%

Annual Savings With Recycling: $10,589


Heavy Annual Usage of Alcohol

Annual Usage

660 gallons

Cost Per Gallon

$13.00

Total Solvent Cost

$8,580

Annual Disposal Cost (estimated at $5.00/gallon)

$3,300

Direct Labor Savings

$3,770

Administrative Labor Savings

$600

Receiving/Stocking Savings

$300

Total Annual Solvent Purchase, Labor and Disposal Cost

$16,550

Projected Savings
with Recycling

Total Annual Cost: $16,550

Projected Recovery: 90%

Annual Savings with Recycling: $14,895


From these examples, you can begin to see why labs are able to offset the initial capital expense of a solvent distillation unit fairly quickly—on average, we see labs recoup the cost of a laboratory solvent recycler in less than two years.

Using the examples above, if your lab is a light-volume user of both xylene and alcohol, you could save $13,966 on solvent purchases, labor and waste disposal in the first year; if your lab is a moderate-volume user of both solvents, you could save $22,341 in year one; and if your lab is a heavy-volume user of both solvents, you could save $33,126 in the first year.

To see the bigger economic picture, compare these estimated savings to the initial cost of a solvent distillation unit.

How Much Could Your Lab Save?

We understand that every laboratory uses different types and volumes of solvent. To better estimate how much your laboratory could save with onsite solvent recycling, use our free cost-savings-analysis calculator. If you have additional questions about our solvent recycling solutions for laboratories, contact us today.

is solvent recycling or disposal the better choice for your lab?

David A. Camiener

Written by David A. Camiener

David Camiener founded Pragmatic Materials, Inc., a supplier of regulated materials and high purity biochemicals to the Pharmaceutical and Life Science industries.  Mr. Camiener is President of CBG Biotech, Ltd., Co., a manufacturer and supplier of recycling equipment to the laboratory, hospital and industrial markets.

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