Supplies coming into labs are often wrapped and parcelled in huge amounts of excess plastic and materials that are notoriously difficult to recycle or reuse
These Polystyrene boxes are a classic example. They are commonly used to insulate temperature sensitive materials that need to be transported. Institutes can have hundreds of these coming in each week.
But the synthetic material is non-recyclable and when not repurposed in the lab, they end up in landfill
What we can do
In the 5 R’s of sustainability we put Refuse first; this means that before having to decide how to deal with the item as a waste problem, you should avoid having to acquire the item at all.
By having conversations with the suppliers we can also ask them not to over pack items unnecessarily, therefore reducing the plastic waste coming into the institute in the first place.
We can make an effort to only buy from companies making proactive steps to ensure their supplies are as sustainable as possible; from the production stage, transport and delivery, all the way through to the disposal.
Some labs can reuse items like polystyrene boxes as temporary ice boxes or reuse them to ship other lab samples.
If the item cannot be reused, then we can have discussion with the supplier and see if they can take it back and reuse the item themselves.