Research contributes to global warming. I’m not surprised. I often feel ridiculous when I make the effort of turning off lights at home while my cells have to grow 24/7 in a 10% CO2 incubator that’s always running. 10% is not the normal amount of CO2 – most cells grow at 5% – which means that only my three flasks are in this big incubator all by themselves. Nobody else can use it, they need 5%. And not to mention the large quantities of lab waste.
I’m working on a little project that I don’t have time for at all, but it’s about lab waste. I took a bunch of photos of single use items and of different ways we handle trash (without identifying my own lab, because this is all very general. I am thinking of checking Flickr for other contributions – the whole thing will be under a creative commons license anyway). It’s very odd: on the one hand there’s a lot of thought put into how lab waste is handled and I am more confident at the lab about which object goes in which bin than I am at home, where there are confusing objects like paper lined with plastic. And “muffin trays” are not recyclable, according to an info sheet I saved, but I never have muffin trays, so I have to guess which other objects are of the same plastic. Styrofoam? I don’t think it’s recyclable, but one of my previous roommates put it in the blue bin all the time. At the lab it’s much simpler: toxic stuff gets incinerated (red bag), liquid chemicals are sorted in different containers, and pretty much everything else goes in the yellow bags, which are sterilized before being sent to landfill. But there is so much stuff that has to be sterile before it becomes garbage: to make it easier, everything is sealed in individual wrappers and disposable, so you know it’s clean. I only found two wrappers or objects that we could easily replace with something less wasteful. Everything else has become so standard that it’s not even possible to work with anything else.
I’m spoiling my own project. I’m sorry. But it’ll be fun. Meanwhile, if you have photos that show waste processing in your lab that you wouldn’t mind me using (you’ll get proper credit) please drop me a line.