18 Mar 24

Global Recycling Day: Science Creates’ journey to greener labs


Recycling is an opportunity to reframe what we once viewed as waste, as a means to preserve the Earth’s natural resources and combat climate change.

It is a key part of the circular economy, a model based on the reuse and regeneration of materials in support of sustainable production and consumption. Through recycling practices we can conserve resources, save energy and reduce pollution with a huge impact – each year recycling saves over 700 million tonnes in CO2 emissions and this is projected to increase to 1 billion tonnes by 2030.

But, we still have a way to go in curbing unnecessary waste and more needs to be done to create a healthier planet for ourselves and future generations. By 2050, our oceans are expected to have more plastic than fish in them, and the plastics sector will account for 20% of total oil consumption and 15% of the global annual carbon budget if we continue as is. Plastics also pose a very significant health risk –a recent study has linked microplastic contamination in blood vessels with a substantially higher risk of stroke, heart attack and earlier death– that can only be fought by reducing plastic production.

Science Creates is on a mission to improve the health of people and the planet, and as our member companies progress disruptive technologies to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, sustainability is at the heart of our collective work. That’s why this Global Recycling Day, an annual celebration of the importance of recycling in securing the future of our planet, we’re highlighting Science Creates’ journey towards sustainability through recycling laboratory plastics.

Innovation’s plastic problem

Naturally, commercial scientific research and development requires the use of plastic consumables such as pipettes, syringes, funnels and disposable gloves. This equipment is crucial in the process of bringing groundbreaking inventions to market, but it generates laboratory waste that can be difficult to recycle because it requires contamination prevention (particularly in life sciences and chemistry labs), numerous recycling streams for various lab materials, and there are limited recycling facilities that provide this specialist service.

To offset the impact of this, we have spearheaded a community-wide collaboration with RecycleLab, waste management specialists in the recycling of single-use plastic science lab consumables.

Supporting community-wide sustainability

RecycleLab audits the environmental impact of laboratory work then collects, sorts and recycles the waste generated. Our collaboration with the local team allows our members to appropriately and efficiently recycle as much lab waste as possible, streamlining their recycling efforts and reducing their environmental impact.

Given the importance of sustainability to our community – which is driven by our mission and actualised by the work of our Sustainability Group – this recycling initiative has been an important addition to our efforts. We’re excited to share that through this initiative, we saved 165kg of lab waste between August and December 2023 alone –that’s more than a giant panda’s weight worth of small, light plastic recycled in just five months, that isn’t polluting the environment in our already overflowing landfills.

Speaking on the recruitment of RecycleLab’s auditing service through our collaboration, Folium Science, a life sciences company working to deliver increased productivity across the food and agriculture value chain, shared: “Nearly a year ago, Folium underwent a waste audit led by RecycleLab. At the time, we were segregating our pipette tip boxes from general waste to send for recycling. RecycleLab estimated that annually, this would amount to almost 2000 kg of plastic diverted from the waste stream, constituting approximately 30% of our total waste. Following the audit, RecycleLab proposed further sorting measures that could increase our waste diversion rate to almost 40%. While we’re still in the process of implementing full-scale waste sorting, we have introduced new recycling bins in our labs, enabling the recycling of additional plastics like falcon tubes and stripettes”

The future

Under the leadership of Holly Fisher, Science Creates’ Laboratory and Sustainability Manager, our whole community will continue to advance and diversify its sustainability efforts. As we continue to improve our recycling practices, actively reduce the unnecessary use of resources and energy, and forge partnerships to improve our environmental impact, further exciting sustainability developments and initiatives are already underway.

We look forward to sharing updates on our journey towards sustainability with you.

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