How to engage staff to meet green credentials

Tips for reducing plastic use in laboratories.

Plastic in laboratories has helped further research for decades however as global governments move to create a more sustainable world, the use of plastic really must be reduced.

Virgin plastic is essential to ensuring the accuracy of many clinical and scientific processes, and the quality and cost has become dependent on this (1). While there have been substantial developments into the production and use of bioplastics, there are still many concerns, regarding; recyclability, price, and consistency (2).

Although we are a long way from removing plastics from laboratories, the race is on to find a suitable alternative that maintains sample integrity in long-term storage or use. The applicability of plastic alternatives is currently limited, but industry developments can address areas of production and supply without compromising the product itself. Therefore, while the product remains virgin plastic, the manufacturing process and packaging materials should be increasingly sustainable, reducing emissions created by the producer and passed on to the user.

Product packaging

Product packaging often consists of multiple layers of various materials, providing protection during transport and storage. However, there is often  overuse of materials, creating more waste than necessary. It is often believed that an increased ratio of paper-based to plastic packaging incites pro-environmental behaviour (3). However, replacing all plastic with paper-based materials can compromise packaging integrity, putting the product at risk while reducing all unnecessary packaging can lead to a better outcome.

Products such as the Fastrak and FastZAP pipette tip refills, from Alpha Laboratories use the minimum amount of packaging possible, while delivering a high-quality product. Packaging is stripped to the essentials; and through smart product design the fully recycled cardboard shell ensures the stability and integrity of the product on opening. The stacking style reduces the plastic racking and enables reuse of existing tip racks. The minimal weight and size of the packaging decreases associated transport emissions and allows consumers to save space and reduce wastage of materials. In addition, the products are manufactured using 61% renewable energy, further reducing emissions.

The ACT label helps customers quantify energy use by detailing lifecycle emissions of the product, from manufacturing, distribution to end-of-life options. Comparisons can be easily made between products, allowing consumers to make informed decisions within their procurement.

REFERENCES:

1.  Urbina, M., et al. Labs should cut plastic waste too. Nature 528, 479 (2015).

2.  Arikan, E.B. and Ozsoy, H.D., A review: investigation of bioplastics. J. Civ. Eng. Arch, 9(1), (2015) pp.188-192.

3.  Sokolova, T., et al. Paper Meets Plastic: The Perceived Environmental Friendliness of Product Packaging, Journal of Consumer Research, Volume 50, Issue 3, (2023), pp. 468–491.

 

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