What's Really Behind the Nalgene Labware Name?
A tribute to the 70th anniversary of Nalgene Labware
Are you a closet Nalgene Labware buff? Do you know and love the Thermo Scientific™ Nalgene™ Labware name and the trusted quality in the lab? Want some inside intel? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this is for you!
There’s an extensive history behind Nalgene Lab Products. In 1949, Emanual Goldberg developed the first pipette jar made from polyethylene and started the Nalge Company in Rochester, NY. There were only three employees at the time. He named Nalgene Plastic Labware after his wife, Natalie Levey Goldberg, AKA “Natalie Gene”. Fast forward to the 70th Anniversary of Nalgene Labware, and things have massively changed with over 75,000 employees and thousands of products sold worldwide. Now that’s a transformational walk down a winding path!
The fact that the majority of Nalgene Labware is still manufactured at 75 Panorama Creek Drive in Rochester, NY is quite nostalgic. The 340,000 ft2 site is close to the equivalent of four city blocks. When you first come into the main building, you see a cafeteria and some office space as well as a set of stairs that leads to a second level of offices with cubicles galore. If you follow the main walkway on the second floor, you will come to a small hallway on the right with a walk-in closet. This closet has been filled over the years with one of each of the many Nalgene Lab Products that have been manufactured since the beginning. The collection is there just in case a quick measurement, description, or any other query about a product needs to be answered for a customer, R&D scientist, engineer, or anyone else. Talk about a small space containing substantial historical weight!
Just down the stairs from the closet, you can enter into the manufacturing plant through a small hallway used for donning the proper safety and cleanliness gear. As you enter through the door, the first thing you will notice is the fast-paced feel – it’s a busy production center full of machinery creating essential labware. There are plastic products lined up and coming off of roller belts everywhere. In a recent interview with Lorie Bedell, the long-time Nalgene Labware Product Manager (who started in 1996), she described being star struck during her first visit to the plant as she looked into the cavity of the stainless-steel mold used for Nalgene beakers. She thought “Oh my gosh! I feel like I am looking into the ‘eyes’ of a celebrity, this mold is responsible for so much scientific history that’s taken place in the lab!”
In describing her role in the Nalgene Labware product line over the years, Bedell feels that the Nalgene product name has a ton of respect in the industry. “There are so many choices out there with less brand recognition – Nalgene is the name you can trust, not only built well, but will last a long time in the lab. We carefully source and test the plastic resins we use so that we can keep the product at its highest quality. If you are going to use plastic in the lab, make sure you are using good plastic, not the cheapest thing on the market that brings a low-price point – who knows what’s in it? And how it may affect your experiments in the lab?”
What’s considered lasting a long time in the lab? Well, if it’s time for the pesky task of refilling your PBS buffer in that trusty Nalgene Carboy, check to see if the Nalgene Graduated Cylinder you use has a black base on it. If it does, you have yourself a vintage workhorse graduated cylinder. It’s over 25 years old! In the early 1990s, the base color was changed from black to the brand-associated blue. This is a great example of how Nalgene Plastic Labware can be used and abused time and time again.
What about the future of Nalgene Labware? We are always on the path of innovation but one pain point we’ve heard a lot from our customers is sustainability, or the lack thereof, in the lab. Plastic has a bad reputation in this arena. To mitigate these issues, various initiatives have been implemented over the years in the Rochester manufacturing plant such as diverting plastic waste from the landfill to other recycling and upcycling facilities, changing to more energy efficient LED lighting that has motion detection, and more recently in 2018, gaining recognition with The ACT Label Program.
Nalgene Labware was the first to participate in the ACT Label program for lab consumables showing our commitment to social responsibility and thought leadership in a challenging area to confront. The ACT Label is a virtual label that helps consumers make smart and sustainable product choices by providing an environmental impact score for each product that is labeled. The score, created by the nonprofit, My Green Lab, is based on the environmental impact of the product with regard to manufacturing practices, energy consumption, water use, and end-of-life disposal. The ACT label helps address this issue by incentivizing changes surrounding manufacturing and end-of-life for Nalgene Labware products. Our goal is to keep on the path of sustainability improvements so that Nalgene Labware will continue to gain respect in the scientific community.
Here’s to you, Nalgene Labware! Congrats on helping scientists in the lab for over 70 years. We look forward to endless scientific discovery for many years to come.
We are proud that Nalgene Labware Products has celebrated over 70 years and invite you to celebrate with us. Sign up to receive a commemorative beaker.
Originally published here.
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