Corine Lormel, Ph.D.
You probably don’t know these terms, but you will soon!
Environmental concerns are not limited yet to the public domain! These last years, labs environmental impact, that went unnoticed, has been rising. Just two weeks ago, The Guardian (Bell, 2019) published an article focusing on the “addiction to plastic” in the labs and the substitute issues.
This publication is probably an echo to the 17th of September Lab waste day (eLife, 2019). On that Tuesday, some scientists have published on social media a picture of their day’s plastic lab trashes with both hashtags #Labwasteday and #SustainableScience and their extrapolation for one year. Thus, they gave tangible form to a back-of-the-envelope evaluation of 5.5 million metric tons of plastic wastes in biosciences worldwide labs published in a letter in Nature (Urbina, Watts, & Reardon, 2015) by a team of Exeter University. An extrapolation from their own biosciences department wastes to the almost 20 500 bioscience labs in the world.
This immoderate number encourages a growing number of universities and other scientific institutions to look for ways to reduce their environmental footprint (Zimmer, 2018) (Kuntin, 2019) (Sawyer, 2019) (Howes, 2019). However, there will still be applications requiring the use of disposable products (Bedell, 2018). While some experiments could use substitute reusable, sometime the reusable material is not available yet or cannot be adapted to the existing procedures.
Recycling becomes a huge alternative for the one-use issue.
In PhytoChemia’s Lab we gradually divert the way our plastic trash is processed in order to prioritize recycling over landfills or incineration traditionally offered when no substitute is available. We examine a key performance indicator named waste diversion rate. It evaluates the share of recycled and reusable wastes among the total amount of trash. The higher it is the most divert is the recycling program.
Last week, we have received a third type of “zero-waste box” from TerraCycle (TerraCycle, 2019) that will increase our disposable options for recycling plastic. A zero-waste box is a prepaid box, with a reshipment service, when it’s full, to a specific centre with expert technologies for items considered as non-recyclable in the customs recycling services.
So now we can recycle:
- More than 50% of our rigid disposable plastics used in our experiments on cannabis. The remaining 50% are contaminated or are not recyclable yet. (box 1 – see picture 1)
- Most of our disposable vinyl, nitrile, and latex gloves, are excluded those with biological hazards. (box 2 – see picture 1)
Picture 1 : Box 1 and Box 2 with our wonderful technician-chemist Rachel H. Fontaine and Cindy Caron.
- 100% of the flexible or rigid plastic packaging such as plasticized mailing envelope (box 3 – see picture 2)
Picture 2 : Box 3 with Benoit Roger who has initiated this environmental change in Phytochemia.
And as plastic isn’t the only factor among all the levers for a better sustainability in laboratories (Paradise, 2017), PhytoChemia would like to develop by 2020 an environmental politic. The main goal is to gain a certificate like “Green lab certification” (My Green Lab, 2013), (LEAF, 2018) (MonEcoLabo, 2013) more and more popular in universities (Sawyer, 2019). This certification focuses not only on recycling but also on the improvement of energy and water use in laboratory which has higher potential of enhancements.
Bedell, L. (2018, 04 12). How Labware Choices Impact a Lab’s Environmental Footprint. Lab manager. Retrieved from https://www.labmanager.com/business-management/2018/03/how-labware-choices-impact-a-lab-s-environmental-footprint#.Xd6aG-hKiUl
Bell, A. (2019, 11 10). Can laboratories curb their addiction to plastic? The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/10/research-labs-plastic-waste
eLife. (2019, 09 17). #LabWasteDay: Share a picture of your plastic waste this September. Retrieved 11 20, 2019, from elifesciences.org: https://elifesciences.org/events/dda27184/labwasteday-share-a-picture-of-your-plastic-waste-this-september
Howes, L. (2019, 11 4). Can laboratories move away from single-use plastic? C&en, 97(43).
Kuntin, D. (2019). How to… reduce your lab’s plastic waste. The Biologist, 28-31.
LEAF. (2018). LEAF – The Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework. Retrieved 11 23, 2019, from UCL: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/greenucl/resources/labs/leaf-laboratory-efficiency-assessment-framework
MonEcoLabo. (2013). Mon Ecolabo. Retrieved 11 22, 2019, from durable.umontreal.ca: https://durable.umontreal.ca/enseignement-recherche/mon-ecolabo/
My Green Lab. (2013). My green lab. Retrieved 11 22, 2019, from https://www.mygreenlab.org/: https://www.mygreenlab.org/
Paradise, A. (2017, 04 03). A Lab Manager’s Guide to Sustainable Lab Practices. Lab Manager. Retrieved 11 20, 2019, from https://www.labmanager.com/business-management/2017/03/lab-manager-guide-to-sustainable-lab-practices#.Xd6aa-hKiUk
Sawyer, A. (2019, 01 15). The unsustainable lab. BioTechniques, 5-7. doi:https://doi.org/10.2144/btn-2018-0185
TerraCycle. (2019). Terracycle. Retrieved 11 20, 2019, from Terracycle.com: https://www.terracycle.com/en-CA/zero_waste_boxes
Urbina, M., Watts, A., & Reardon, E. (2015, 12 23). Labs should cut plastic waste too. Nature, 528, 479. doi:10.1038/528479c
Zimmer, K. (2018, 08 1). Life Scientists Cut Down on Plastic Waste. The Scientist.