Grenova’s founder Ali Safavi was asked to present at TEDxYouth to address the steady rise in plastic biohazard waste produced from the laboratory and healthcare industry. In his inspiring presentation, Ali shared his mission to create a future free from plastic pollution—a future that is filled with an abundance of life, not an abundance of plastic.
See Ali Safavi’s full presentation here.
“Working as a clinical lab scientist for many years, I didn’t have to look far to see plastic all around me,” explained Ali to the TEDxYouth audience. “You see, in the healthcare and life sciences industry, the entire system begins with plastic. Pipette tips are used on a daily basis to transfer samples in the form of liquid from point-to-point in order to run incredibly important tests that impact our lives. The problem, however, is that in the lab we often use these plastic tips once and then toss them into the biohazard bin, which ultimately finds its way into landfills in every corner of the world. And we’re doing this at a rate so high that we could circle the earth more than ten times with plastic pipette tips that have been disposed of this year alone.”
Ali shared with the audience the fact that more than 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced since the introduction of plastic. Based on the most recent estimates, we are currently producing over 600 Billion pounds of plastic that end up in our landfill every year. At that rate, we could build 822 Empire State Buildings each year from our plastic waste.
“To many people’s surprise, laboratories are producing 12 Billion pounds of plastic waste in the form of plastic consumables and disposables each year,” said Ali. “The majority of this plastic is considered biohazard waste because it has come in contact with biological samples, infectious diseases, and other chemicals and compounds that labs utilize daily for running tests. To put this into perspective, 12 Billion pounds is enough biohazard plastic waste to fill up Manhattan island up to your knees each year.”
In addition to the unfriendly environmental aspect, Ali shared the extremely large, and growing, cost associated with plastic biohazard as well. Labs around the world are currently paying for thousands of plastic pipette tips every day that are used once and quickly discarded. The cost of plastic consumables is passed along to all of us as consumers. As the price of our healthcare system continues its steady rise, we can no longer neglect the cost of plastic consumables that is contributing to the rise of an unnecessary practice.
With these important statistics in mind, Ali asked the audience a critical question: We are the most advanced society in history. Why can’t we develop new technology that goes hand-in-hand, and works in parallel, with advancements in the lab industry?
“I asked myself this question while working in a large lab running tests every day using pipette tips and realized that it is entirely possible to clean and reuse plastic consumables instead of discarding them after one-time use. Today, I am the founder of a company that helps other labs to safely reuse their most common plastic disposables by more than 10x. The result has been 90% cost and waste reduction. We have proven that it is entirely possible to safely wash and reuse close to 100 million pipette tips. That’s equivalent to keeping 270,000 pounds of plastic from ending up in landfills! And, we’ve been able to help the lab industry save over $7MM on pipette tip spending. Best of all, the labs who are saving this money are now reinvesting their funds into expansion and improvements in their daily operations.”
Ali’s fight to create a better tomorrow began in the lab—but each of us can closely observe the patterns of our own lives to see what can be done differently in our schools, in our places of work, in our homes, and in the everyday actions we take. For Ali, that meant finding a solution for washing and reusing pipette tips and taking that solution to the global stage. For others, the answer will be entirely different.
Look around you. Begin by thinking about the items you use on a daily basis and how we can shift from a throw-away mindset to a circular economy in which nothing that’s made becomes waste. While our individual efforts may seem futile, the combined impact of multiple actions among all of us can be the difference between living or drowning in a sea of plastic. Find the pipette tip in your life and ask yourself and others what can be done differently. If you don’t like the answer you receive, create one.
See Ali’s full presentation here.