Glass vs. Plastic Pipettes: Can We Make Our Laboratories More Sustainable by Reusing
27 January 2022 16:00 (CET) Presentation by Victoria Anastasia Sajtovich (MPI for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg)
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The prodigious success of plastics, embraced for their versatility and resistance to degradation over traditional materials like glass and wood, has led to an environmental burden of unimaginable scale. Plastic consumption is increasing exponentially, while end-of-life management has lagged far behind: approximately 12 billion metric tonnes of plastic waste is predicted to enter the biosphere by 2050 (Geyer et al, 2017). Globally, only 9% of all plastic waste is recycled, while the remaining 91% of waste plastics are incinerated, landfilled, or released to the environment (Geyer et al, 2017). While incineration contributes to further CO2 emissions, the accumulation of plastic waste has detrimental effects on natural ecosystems (e.g. Erkensen, et al. 2014; Jambeck et al, 2015, Horn et al, 2019). Even in countries with extensive plastic recycling systems, such as Germany, changes in plastic policy and usage are widely regarded as necessary to reduce the environmental burden of these materials (Plastics Europe, 2020). As the scientific laboratory is one workplace with extensive single-use plastic consumption, we set out to compare the sustainability of plastic versus glass pipettes. We present our analyses of the true cost and efficacy of reusing these everyday consumables, particularly for sensitive experiments, thus allowing laboratories to make an informed choice for their sustainability in hopes of advancing a circular economy within the sciences.
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