Worldwide, it is estimated that labs produce a staggering 5.5 billion kg of plastic waste per year and use about four times more water and 10 times more electricity than office spaces of the same size. Although vital discoveries are pioneered in these labs, which has certainly been highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic, this output is unsustainable. Integra Biosciences, a leading provider of high-quality laboratory tools, has created a list of key steps that you can take to help address this issue and reduce your overall resource consumption.
Integra’s advice is largely summed up by the motto ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, which addresses the sheer amount of waste generated each day in the lab. The company offers simple steps to help reduce waste – such as keeping an inventory to know when to order items in bulk – or collaborating with other labs to share equipment and reagents, helping to avoid over-ordering of chemicals that may expire. You might also be able to wash and reuse some conical tubes, reservoirs and plastic bottles, and simply knowing about local recycling programs enables you to set up corresponding bins to optimise waste disposal.
The company also provides important guidance on electricity and water consumption. Simple steps such as switching off your devices and lights when they are not in use, using socket timers and closing the sash of the fume hood can all add up to a large overall reduction in electricity usage. But it is the high energy drainers in the lab that are the bigger problem. Ultra-low temperature freezers consume an enormous amount of energy – about the same per year as an entire household – so you should use them as efficiently as possible, for example by raising the temperature slightly if samples are stable, or sharing one with another lab to maximize usage. And for water savings, equip your faucets with low-flow aerators, and only run dishwashers and autoclaves when full. These comprehensive guidelines, combined with choosing sustainable suppliers, will help you to not only reduce your environmental footprint, but also significantly increase efficiency and lower running costs.