In our efforts to be good stewards of our resources, we've taken several steps here at New Life Scientific to establish ourselves as an eco-friendly company. While the nature of our business model has a certain level of recycling and reusability baked in — such as pulling components from non-functional instruments to repair other items, rather than trashing it all — we realized we could still improve. In this article, we'll share what we're currently doing to go green, the challenges we (and many others) face, and how lab equipment manufacturers can help make the biotech industry more environmentally friendly as a whole.
Initial Steps & What We're Doing Now
Running a business of 15+ employees generates a lot of waste. Plastic water bottles, paper plates, disposable silverware. . .all of this is generated on a daily basis. As such, one of our first steps in becoming more eco-friendly was simply purchasing reusable dishware. Now, employees can simply grab a ceramic plate and metal silverware to eat their lunch with instead of throwing away a plastic plate and fork every day.
After upgrading our dishware, we installed labeled waste receptacles at multiple areas in our facility. These bins are labeled for plastic, cans, cardboard, and trash, thus allowing us to simply pull the bags of recyclable materials and take them straight to our local recycling center without having to sort through it all.
Additionally, we make all of our used oil, such as vacuum pump oil, freely available to local farmers and others who burn the oil for heat. Now, these 55-gallon drums of oil won't be tossed into a landfill to rot for the next few decades.
Finally, as mentioned earlier, we frequently recycle components from nonfunctioning equipment to fix other instruments. We have a whole "boneyard" of equipment ready to be parted out and put to use elsewhere, thus staying out of landfills.
Challenges We're Facing
Lack of education is one of the most common detriments to organizations seeking to implement eco-friendly processes. To many, it's not always clear what can be recycled or how materials should be sorted, and sometimes it doesn't feel as though it's even worth all the extra effort. As such, teaching people not only how to recycle properly but why it's important — that is, clearly defining the impact that they can have — is a vital part of going green as as business. Here at New Life Scientific, we have guides posted above recycling bins instructing readers on how to determine if a particular material qualifies for recycle. Additionally, one of our employees is passionate about environmentalism and is always ready to answer his coworkers' questions about the subject.
How Lab Equipment Manufacturers Can Help
While many manufacturers do a great job of providing things like consumables and pipettes in recyclable containers, there is one key area in which they could be more eco-friendly: the instruments themselves.
It's common for manufacturers to produce equipment body panels, control panels, etc. with foam injection molding. This foam is not recyclable at all, so when the equipment dies, those panels can't be stripped and reused elsewhere — they're simply thrown in a landfill.
If manufacturers wish to become more environmentally-conscious, they may want to consider producing instrument panels and frames out of metal or recyclable plastic.