Green Gown Awards 2020 - University of York - Finalist

Tags: Green Gown Awards 2020 | campus of the future | University of York

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A second chance for single-use lab plastics 

As much as one tonne of plastic per science laboratory is thrown away each year - we have found a sustainable solution. 

To ensure sterility, plastic items used in research projects, including pipettes, culture flasks, well plates, and centrifuge containers, could not be reused. As most recycling plants will not accept laboratory plastics due to their perceived health and safety risk, these items were being disposed of as offensive waste via landfill or incineration.  

Through collaborative work between laboratory research teams, the department infrastructure team, University Estates Department and our waste contractors, we developed sustainable and cost effective processes to separately consign and recycle these single-use laboratory plastics in order to give them a new life.  

Through a formal process we separated plastics into different types and decontaminated them within our labs prior to segregated collection by our chemical waste contractor, who turns this into high quality plastic recyclate to be reused in other products, saving natural resources and money. 

Top 3 learnings:

  1. We can transform the ingrained ‘normal’ way of doing things with a sustainability mindset. 
  2. Complex practical implementation issues can be overcome through collaborative working. 
  3. We did not expand too fast and ensured the trial laboratory worked effectively first.  

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