Green Education - 3 Ways To Reduce Plastic Waste In The Laboratory

Published 4 months ago • 2 min read

Personal Note From The Editor

Good morning Reader! Great to have you on board. This is your educational piece on how to make science more sustainable : )

Today we talk about something we all encounter every day. Plastic waste ... We will see some concrete strategies how to reduce it when in the laboratory. Hope you enjoy!

Today's Lesson: Plastic Waste #1

Introducing the topic of plastic waste and 3 strategies to reduce it.

Number Of The Day

A review from 2022 estimated that about 380 million tons of plastics are produced every year. But less than 20% is acturally recycled. The problem? Virgin plastic comes at higher quality and a lower price - death by economical reasons ...

Just 20%

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3 Ways To Reduce Plastic Waste

What was the first time you were thinking about sustainability in the laboratory? Probably after you saw the piles of plastic waste…

A famous study by Urbina et al. estimated that laboratories worldwide produce about 5,5 Million tons of plastic waste every year. On average, every single researcher consumes about 100 kg of plastics each year.

Plastic waste is a big issue due to its persistence in nature. Additionally, many laboratory articles are contaminated and thus, cannot be easily recycled (the next few lessons will show opportunities to solve this issue).

In essence there are three core principles to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the laboratory.

Reduce: avoid the use of any consumable that is not absolutely required. For example: preparing reagents that will eventually be mixed in single containers instead of separate ones.

Minimize: using the smallest article size feasible. For example: using a 15-mL instead of 50-mL tube or choosing a PCR-microtube instead of 1.5-mL tubes can reduce waste by about 50%.

Reuse: consumables can be reused whenever contamination is either not possible or avoidable by changing pipetting orders. For example: when solvents are to be added to all samples, they can be pipetted into a tube first using the same tip.

If you like to know more: Scientists from the UK have quantified the amount of waste they were able to save by simple measures.

Applying The Knowledge

Let's say you work in the cell culture: here you could prepare the media you need in the Petri dishes right away instead of separate tubes. Moving on when you plate you passage your cells: in case you use separate stocks, you could pipette the washing solution and the medium during plating with the same pipette.
When doing so you use the smallest pipette size possible so that for example you use a 10mL serological pipette instead of a 25mL although it means that you need to pipe it twice.

Take away: Next time you do an experiment, consider where you can reduce (use less consumables), minimize (use the smallest size possible) and reuse (reuse an article without contaminating your samples).

Next Lesson: How to identify opportunities to reduce the use of plastic consumables.

Asking You

How many tons of plastic waste end up in oceans every year?


200 000


8 Million

When you click you can vote and see the result!

How We Feel Today

If you have a wish or a question, feel free to reply to this Email.
Otherwise, wish you a beatiful week!
See you again on the 14th : )

You will soon find all previous lessons online.

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Edited by Patrick Penndorf
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