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It’s now official: Environmental impact of single-use plastic items is typically greater than re-using glass items.

To anyone working in a laboratory, it should come to no surprise that the research we do is resource intensive – not only in terms of financial costs but also in its carbon footprint. Reserach labs require large amounds of energy to run equipment and typically consume large volumes of materials, particularly single-use items.

Re-using glassware instead of single-use plastic items is something that many labs are currently striving for, however just how much of a difference it makes remained elusive, and was even up for debate – at least within some of our sustainability meetings. Now it is official: A study on the CO2 equivalent footprint single-use plastics, and re-use of glass or plastic items in the lab (done by researchers from the UK and Netherlands) has found that the “CO2 footprint associated with single-use plastic utilisation in laboratories is substantially greater than the re-use of either plastic or glass tubes.”

However, it is not always just a question CO2, so for those of you wondering about the cost difference, they also found: “Cost of re-use is similar or lower than this of single use plastic items.”

And even though we might not all work with the items that this study looks at, I think it’s safe to say that the trends seem to be clear, so moving away from single-use plastic to glass or other alternatives should no longer be a question of “maybe?” but instead a search for best strategies to discourage single-use items and encourage re-using glassware in your particularly laboratory.

For those that want to find out more or want to read the article for yourself, here is the published article:

And for anyone interested in discussing strategies to increase sustainability in research with other scientist, the Sustainable Research Symposium 2022 both online and on-site in the Netherlands is happening on May 19th approximately between 9am – 3pm CET and is free of charge.

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