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Reduce single-use laboratory plastics

When it comes to scientific research, laboratories tend to consume single-use plastics in very high quantities. From plastic petri dishes and a wide array of pipettes and pipette tips, spreaders, inoculation loops, tubes and vials, scientific researchers use and discard numerous types of lab plastics every day.  

The use of such equipment is pivotal to making scientific breakthroughs. However, it is also highly detrimental to the environment. In 2015, three researchers at the University of Exeter evaluated the annual plastic waste produced by our bioscience department and estimated that bio scientific research is responsible for 1.8 per cent of total global plastic production (https://www.nature.com/articles/528479c)They worked out that bioscience research institutions worldwide produce around 5.5 million tonnes of plastic waste annually

Given the current global situation, it is more necessary than ever to adopt responsible lab practices to reduce the use of single-use laboratory plastics. Our research laboratories consistently look for ways to reduce single-use plastics and minimise laboratory waste as much as possible. Consequently, the University is working to support our research laboratories to purchase plastic items responsibly and focus on the five Rs of waste management 

This hierarchy of action includes: 
  • Refuse 
  • Reduce 
  • Reuse (or Repair)
  • Repurpose
  • Recycle 

Laboratory processes should be optimised to align with the first four R’s wherever possible. Only when the initial four R’s have been fully considered, should recycling be used as an option. All hazardous waste and contaminated items must be decontaminated beforehand or excluded from this process if full decontamination isn’t possible. If you are in doubt or need information regarding this, please look to your technical support team for guidance.

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Get in touch

If you have any comments or recommendations on how to make our labs more sustainable, please contact us and provide your feedback!

LEAF Team 
Email: LEAF@exeter.ac.uk