When compared to an average office setting, laboratories consume 10 times more energy and over 4 times more water, all while generating billions of pounds of waste each year, most of which is considered hazardous.1 By simply lowering the amount of waste coming into a lab, however, organizations can begin to reduce the environmental impact of their work while also increasing throughput and freeing up much-needed lab space. Here are three easy tips to help reduce waste in laboratories.
Tip 1: Consolidate Purchases and Select Products with Reduced Packaging
Consolidating purchases and selecting products with reduced packaging is the perfect place to start when working to reduce waste in laboratories.1 Order all the materials you need at one time from a supplier to avoid receiving multiple packages. Be sure to only order what you need and if you require a smaller amount of a specific item, consider asking the vendor what the expiration date is to help minimize the amount of unused product that will be discarded.2
Many lab suppliers are using smaller boxes and fewer packing materials in their containers.2 For example, Immundiagnostik has transitioned its ELISA kit packaging to a sustainable, bio-based solution from PaperFoam® and now uses biodegradable packing materials rather than Styrofoam peanuts.
Immundiagnostik also offers customized bulk packaging to help further reduce unnecessary waste in high throughput laboratories.
Tip 2: Use Glassware Instead of Plastic
Another way to minimize waste in your lab is to use glassware rather than plasticware whenever possible. Glass is not only eco-friendly but has also been reliably used in the lab industry for decades. Unlike plastic, glassware can be washed, sterilized, and reused. Meanwhile, most plastic items are usually considered disposable.3
According to Lab-Training.com, the high clarity of glass allows for better visibility and more accurate recording of volumes versus plastic containers which can become faded and less clear over time. Sealed glass containers can also prevent oxidative degradation because they are impermeable to atmospheric gases as opposed to plastic options.
Tip 3: Recycle
As mentioned earlier, most plastic laboratory items are disposable and non-biodegradable which contributes to the environmental dilemma. Labs now have the option, however, to recycle plastic labware and non-hazardous waste, as many waste transporters are accepting non-hazardous plastic waste from these organizations, such as pipette tip boxes.1
Several vendors offer recycling programs for their products including Corning, Kimberly-Clark, MilliporeSigma, and New England Biolabs. Some states also provide hazardous waste recycling services to laboratories, so be sure to research options that may be available to you locally.
Reduce Waste in Laboratories
Although the accumulation of waste is inevitable in most laboratories, there are ways to reduce your lab’s environmental impact. Consolidating purchases and selecting products with fewer packaging materials is a great first step. You can also consider using glass rather than plastic whenever possible. At the same time, plastic items can be reused and recycled to help reduce waste in laboratories.
By taking these simple steps, your organization can begin to reduce its environmental impact while also increasing throughput.
- AACC (2019). Clinical Labs: Making the Switch to Green. https://www.aacc.org/cln/articles/2019/march/clinical-labs-making-the-switch-to-green
- My Green Lab (2020). Reduce. https://www.mygreenlab.org/reduce.html
- Lab-Training.com (2016). Deciding Between Glass and Plastic Laboratory Ware. https://lab-training.com/2016/12/06/deciding-glass-plastic-laboratory-ware/