There is no doubt that plastic makes life easier, but does it make life better? Sure, plastic is versatile and used almost everywhere. It can be flexible or rigid, and it can be molded into innumerable shapes, revolutionizing every aspect of the way the world works.
When it comes to laboratory medicine, the industry has especially benefitted from the introduction of plastic, allowing testing to move away from expensive glass products. Unfortunately, though, a large proportion of the plastic heavily relied upon in today’s labs is single-use. A 2015 study from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom found laboratory waste to be 2% of the total plastic thrown away worldwide per year. This equates to 6 million tons of plastic waste produced by scientific research labs annually. On average, a scientist creates 300-400 grams of plastic refuse in one day of lab work.
The single-use plastic that is quietly impacting our environment at an alarming rate often includes disposable gloves, swabs, microwell plates, and the main culprit – pipette tips. In labs around the world, pipette tips are mindlessly tossed into biohazard bins after a single use. These tips often end up in landfills and inevitably leak into groundwater and waterways. In fact, microplastics have been found in every ocean, the deepest trench in the world, on top of Mt. Everest, and most disturbingly, in human blood and placenta tissue. Nowhere is immune to the presence of plastic waste.
So why aren’t plastic consumables recycled more often by a professional dedicated to health and wellness? The truth is plastic produced in laboratories is not homogenous. It is often made of many different types of plastics, such as polypropylene plastic. This is the most common plastic used in the world because it is cheap to produce, flexible, and strong. It is ubiquitous in society, but only 2% is recycled worldwide because of its diverse uses and shapes.
For example, the pipette tips made of polypropylene plastic must first be autoclaved to get rid of biohazards. Then, a recycling center for polypropylene plastic must be sourced. This can be difficult because there is less infrastructure supporting polypropylene plastic recycling versus other types of plastic such as polyethylene plastic, which makes up plastic bottles, and recycling can incur additional costs for labs due to increased shipping.
The best solution is to simply reuse as much plastic in the lab as possible. In 2015, Grenova launched a revolutionary product, a benchtop high-throughput automated pipette tip washer called TipNovus. Since its implementation, over 1,201,932,255 pipette tips have been washed and reused, leading to a reduction of over 2,650,848 pounds of plastic waste. This is not only positively impactful to the environment, but it saves laboratories money because most pipette tips can be washed and reused up to 40 times.
Grenova is now expanding its benchtop washers, this time for plastic microwell plates, another major component of lab waste, exponentially decreasing plastic refuse generated from laboratories.
There will never again be a world without plastic, it is too ingrained in our society. But, Grenova offers solutions for sustainable laboratories to continue operating, while decreasing their environmental impact and saving money through washing and reusing pipette tips and microwell plates.
Learn to wash your Beckman, Agilent, Hamilton, and Tecan tips by contacting Grenova today.