In the name of sterility and to save time from handling glassware, we are using an extreme amount of plastic disposables in bioscience labs.
In fact, our single-use petri dishes, cell flasks, various tubes, pipette tips and their boxes, serological pipettes etc. add up to an estimated 5.5 billion tons of plastic waste produced by academic research labs each year!
Unfortunately, most plastic isn´t recyclable in the first place, and most of the recyclable plastic ISN'T ACTUALLY RECYCLED -- even if you manage to sort it correctly.
So if you want to make the largest possible impact on your lab´s contribution to the plastic waste problem, you should focus on the amount of plastic entering your lab in the first place rather than focusing on how the plastic is exiting your lab!
One way to reduce your plastic waste is by purchasing products with reduced plastic content. Mettler Toledo, Starlab, NEB and Labcon are some of the companies who have developed products containing less plastic.
As examples, Labcon and Mettler Toledo have reduced the plastic content of their pipette tip refilling systems, Starlab has made their pipette tips thinner, and NEB has introduced bottles and columns with thinner walls in their DNA purification kits. These products now contain 40-50% less plastic than before -- so that adds up to a whole lot of plastic saved!
DO YOU WANT TO REDUCE PLASTIC WASTE?
Here´s two pieces of advice:
Buy products with reduced plastic content when possible
Ask your manufacturers and suppliers what they are doing to fight the plastic waste problem! They are much more likely to make their products greener if they know that their customers care about sustainability.