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Ten ways to reduce laboratory waste

Posted on Thursday, April 1, 2021

By Nicole Kelesoglu

Topic: Environment and social responsibility

The best way to reduce laboratory waste downstream is by "thinking upstream". Stop it before it starts. Here are ten sustainable science actions that you can take to conserve lab resources and practice environmental stewardship this Earth Day, and every day!

  1. Use an easy access inventory system for lab members - this will help to prevent loss, over-ordering, and exceeding cold storage requirements for biological materials.
  2. Use a stock room or consignment system for common lab supplies, with minimized packaging - this will reduce manufacturing and transportation environmental impacts. 
  3. At the organization level, share unused supplies and equipment time between labs - not to mention conserving science funding and lab space.
  4. Optimize protocol workflows to save time, energy and materials - save the environment and streamline your science.
  5. Reduce assay or culture volumes whenever you can achieve the same results - get more data using less material.
  6. Keep in mind how "closed loop system" lab instruments may limit material choices - some manufactures require end users use only manufacturer provided consumables in service contracts.
  7. Can you switch a protocol to glass collection tubes or glass petri dishes? Eliminate single-use lab plastics when feasible.
  8. Match high volumes of single-use devices to the best available disposal to your lab in the waste hierarchy. Recycling isn't always the most environmental choice.
  9. Eliminate unnecessary radioactive or chemical hazardous waste.
  10. Importantly, don't keep best practices for lab equipment and disposal a secret - team up with clear laboratory signage.

Sustainable life science work is a collaborative effort. NEB offers several ways for scientists to reduce laboratory waste. For example, the Monarch® Nucleic Acid Purification Kits are designed to be user-friendly, eco-friendly, and produce high quantities of high-quality genomic, HMW, plasmid DNA or RNA. The NEBnow® Freezer program makes reagents accessible 24/7, automates inventory, and reduces shipping and packaging. NEB ClimaCell® Coolers can be recycled in cardboard streams and foam shippers can be sent back to NEB for reuse. Biotech and molecular diagnostics partners depend on New England Biolabs® for innovative, minimized workflows and streamlined supply chains. NEB partners use Vendor-Managed Inventory to plan for sustainable production. From small scale to large scale, upstream thinking is the best way to prevent lab waste in the first place.

I invite you to keep up with green lab tips and sustainable bioscience trends, by joining the Labconscious community! It’s an uplifting way to connect with biologists who practice environmental stewardship.

labconscious, sustainable laboratories


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