09 June 2012
By Blanka Sengerová
In plenty of the labs I've worked in, it seems that you are very careful with reagents and making sure they're used effectively to save the PI money. But what about the waste that research produces, should there be some sort of incentive for labs to be environmentally friendly?
In my lab, I am probably regarded as a bit of a recycling obsessive because I made sure that the foil from glass and plastic-ware (used to cover the top after washing, to avoid dust) was kept back for recycling, that empty chemical containers (assuming the chemicals were harmless) were washed out and took them to the local recycling and that plastic boxes that store tips were recycled and not thrown into the landfill bins. One or two of my colleagues helped and were supportive, but to many people this is not a priority judging by what you see in the general waste bins.
On a related theme, it is also horrifying to see how many chemicals were wasted (the making of them and their disposal both use an awful lot of resources) when a lab moved to another country because they could not be exported, or even when a lab was wound up.
I think it would be a benefit to both sustainable science and to the PIs' funding if wastage could be minimised. Should funding agencies be a bit more insistent on sustainable disposal of waste (I think so) and how can they achieve this?
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