Reducing Plastic Waste in the Laboratory

With climate consciousness ever on the rise and international efforts to reduce or even eliminate single-use plastics, one application that seems unavoidable is single-use lab plastics. In any given laboratory around the globe, plastic waste is everywhere. From petri dishes to pipette tips, everything in the laboratory is designed to be disposable. And for good reason - cross-contamination can, at best, ruin a single experiment. At worst, it can have farther-reaching implications such as a false cancer diagnosis or exposure to toxic biological or chemical agents.

So, what’s the solution? Designing multi-use materials is, quite frankly, impractical. The cost to purchase these materials alone would be prohibitive for many labs. They would also certainly come with increased water usage and operational costs for the time and energy it would take to thoroughly clean and sterilize the materials. After all that, you may end up with an equivalent or even larger ecological footprint than had you just stuck to single-use plastics.

One solution that we’ve found to reduce plastic waste in the laboratory is to manufacture single-use PCR plates using biocomposite materials instead of petroleum-derived plastic. Our 2-component PCR plates are produced with frames made from a biocomposite matrix to provide a rigid structure for the reaction wells. The frame material remains stable during thermal cycling, facilitating reliable robotic handling and ensuring the seal to each well is never compromised. The biocomposite material is sustainably sourced, and derived from plants, but designed to rival the performance of plastic-based PCR plates.

The reaction wells are made from the same virgin medical grade low bind polypropylene as our standard PCR plates. The reaction well is where your PCR takes place, so you don't have to worry about changing protocols or adjusting your concentrations. The combination of biocomposite frames and polypropylene wells represents a reduction of plastic during the manufacturing side by 46-50% vs. standard PCR plates.

As a bonus, these plates weigh approximately 10% less than plates manufactured entirely from petroleum-derived plastic. This means less fuel is burned during transportation, thus reducing your carbon footprint even further.

Together, we can make a difference. The next time you get overwhelmed with the amount of plastic your laboratory produces, try to think of ways that you, too, can help reduce your ecological footprint. Remember, every little bit counts!