Life scientist labs are one area in which plastic waste can significantly be reduced. Millions and millions of tons of different plastic waste are produced every year in life science laboratories alone. This includes items like pipette tips, cell culture flasks, and nitrile gloves. In the modern age of global waste pollution and the ubiquity of plastic in today’s world, this is too much. The use of plastics is justified in labs due to their excellent properties for use, like their resistance to chemicals and solvents, the lower costs for manufacturing, lower weight, and the almost infinite ways to use them. However, there are small changes that you can make in your laboratory every day to reduce your plastic usage. Read on to learn more!
Reuse Plastic Wherever You Can
In a lot of science laboratories, plastic materials are replacing glass and other materials with single-use inoculation loops that are made of plastic instead of stainless steel flasks. The list is almost endless of what they’re replacing. However, they’re one of the top driving forces behind the increasing amounts of waste that are being produced, including the packaging that has to be added for each product. One way many labs can cut back on their plastic usage is to hold onto many of the plastic pipettes and flasks that they’re using and clean them thoroughly after each experiment. This approach is worth considering, particularly in any high-throughput screening and anywhere else where many pipette tips are used for solvents and buffers.
Recycling in Your Lab
Much like how we separate our trash into recyclables and waste, it’s possible to do this in the laboratory too. Currently, the situation is different in labs, where plastic waste isn’t always recycled and instead ends up with general residual waste. For potentially contaminated single-use lab products like cell culture dishes, reaction tubes, or pipette tips, this makes sense. But for any uncontaminated products, they can be sorted out and recycled. You can do this with lab gloves, products with any recycled plastic materials, or pipette tip racks that are made of one single plastic.
Small Steps Combining to Achieve a Great Effort
Rethinking our current use of plastic products and making sure they’re used correctly, pursuing active strategies for recycling, and always looking for alternatives, a combination of the reduce, reuse, and recycle method, can help reduce waste. This will not only save space but disposal costs and helps out the environment too. Just be conscious and make an effort to reduce your carbon footprint in your lab if you can!
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