Sustainability in the Lab Concerns Us All
Whenever the topic of sustainability comes up in the scientific community, there are many issues to consider. Energy-guzzling ULT freezers, containers with biological, chemical, or radioactive waste, and large bags of used plastic tips and tubes are just some examples. In addition, lab employees are facing packaging materials, noisy instruments or devices with unergonomic handling, 24/7 science jobs, fixed-term job contracts, and limited budgets; the topic of sustainability in the laboratory has many facets.
Sustainability is becoming more and more important in public life. Wherever we interact in our personal area, there is a growing number of sustainability topics. The same holds true for our interaction with you, our customers in the labs worldwide.
Whereas just a few years ago, the topic of sustainability was mainly driven by dedicated employees in academic institutes and research-based companies, there has been a noticeable change for some time now. Purchasing departments as well as procurement systems request information, and we see a growing interest in Eppendorf and our approach to sustainability.
How far can we go?
Despite the quest for sustainability, the safety of both the scientists and the samples remains paramount in the laboratory.
In many laboratories, there is no way around disposable tips and tubes, which create large amounts of biologically or chemically contaminated plastic waste. Although there are good initial ideas, lab waste can still not be recycled efficiently at this time due to regulatory requirements stipulating that it be disposed of as biohazardous waste. How can one at least reduce this type of waste?
Through clever product selection, you can start reducing the amount of plastic used in the laboratory today, such as:
- Reload pipette tips: For the past two decades, our epT.I.P.S.® refill system consisting of box and reloads has already been available as a plastic-saving refill system.
- In many cases, a vessel with a smaller volume is sufficient! Changing from 15 mL to 5 mL or from 50 mL to 25 mL reduces plastic waste by half and doubles the storage capacity in the ULT freezer.
- Smart experimental designs may help to reduce the number of tips and tubes in the workflow.
Any object that comes into contact with the bench surface in the laboratory is to be considered contaminated. This risk of contamination also jeopardises the recycling of packaging material. For this reason, products such as tip boxes should be separated from the packaging material in such a way that the packaging materials remain “clean”, such as away from the lab bench. After all, cardboard, plastic lids or bags are valuable raw materials. Collect them “as clean” in the appropriate collection bins at your organisation.
The safety of valuable samples is always our top priority. For example, the set temperature for centrifuging sensitive protein samples must be maintained accurately throughout the process to ensure data reliability and reproducibility. Slow recovery of a -80°C ULT freezer after door opening may save energy but you are putting 50,000 high-value samples at risk. Have you ever considered whether your samples will be comfortable at -70°C? On average, you can save around 30% of energy by adjusting the set point.
Eppendorf factories — 100% green energy
Our production facilities have been gradually switched over to power originating from renewable sources. Since 2021, all of these products bearing the renowned Eppendorf logo have been assembled using 100% renewable electrical energy. However, product assembly is only one aspect of energy-conscious action; the operation of laboratory equipment also requires electricity. Have you checked the source of your laboratory’s electricity?
The green idea may be the most familiar, but in fact, sustainability encompasses many environmental, social, and economic factors. At Eppendorf, we consider the entire supply chain and define our impact on sustainability in areas such as climate change and the use of natural resources, social compliance, and human well-being, as well as with regard to data security and our role as responsible citizens in society.
This consideration begins before the product; it encompasses Eppendorf as an employer as well as a customer of our suppliers. Thus, our own Code of Conduct sets the bar for both employees and our supply chain. Our social behaviour includes treating each other with respect, respecting the intellectual property of others, sticking to facts, and making ourselves reliable partners for our counterparts.
The optimisation of our product design for improved ergonomic handling began in the 1970s. Today, the PhysioCare Concept® implemented in all Eppendorf products supports the well-being of our users.
More information is available in our recently published Sustainability Report.
These expectations are clearly defined and subject to continuous improvement and learning.
Sustainability: an on-going journey
Science is based on facts. Statements such as “Our product is more sustainable compared to others” are questioned by researchers in many ways. Analysing and improving sustainability issues requires knowledge and intensive work. None of the sustainability challenges can be solved quickly or easily. But they all require manufacturers and customers to listen to each other and work together. This work is an ongoing journey in which we communicate in constant dialogue with our stakeholders.
We are researching new technologies, alternative materials and concepts. Each of these changes has the potential to contribute to progress in sustainability. Even small improvements optimise the longevity of devices and thus contribute to greater sustainability.
More information at www.eppendorf.com/sustainability
Insider tip: Check out our tube portfolio online in a few weeks — you will discover some real and cool innovation in respect to lab plastic and sustainability, stay tuned!
Labs, whether in academia and research or biotechnology and manufacturing, are all aiming to...