Home Science CommunicationOutreach & engagement Help me make a video about lab waste

Help me make a video about lab waste

by Eva Amsen

I’m making a little video about lab waste. The whole thing will be thrown online under a Creative Commons license when it’s done, and right now I’m also using about 75% CC material (photos or sound) from various places online (Flickr, ccMixter) and making sure that either the Creative Commons license fits with what I want to release it under, or that the owner of the material gives me explicit permission.

So it’s definitely not all my material – it’s a collective effort by all these people, and I’m just throwing it together.
The first part is a series of photos, and for the last part I want to offer some suggestions on how to reduce lab waste. This is where you come in!

If you have any tips on reducing lab waste that you want to share with others, leave me a comment here and I’ll add it to the list! You will be credited in a collective list at the end of the video (so not at your suggestion itself) by what it says on your Nature Network profile, unless you tell me otherwise.

My own suggestions so far are (badly written for now and) below the fold.

-Use tubes of the appropriate volume. I love the big 50 ml tubes, and I often prepare 10 ml medium with supplements in them, even though that fits just as easily in a 15 ml tube. Smaller tubes take up slightly less space and contain slightly less material in the end.
-Don’t use single wrapped pipettes. The pipettes that are packaged per 20 (?) are also sterile and stay sterile as long as you reclose the bag or leave it in the sterile hood.
-Don’t use the plastic eyelets to streak bacteria. The metal ones can be used over and over for years.
-Wash and reuse pipettes that don’t need to be sterile. Some pipette washers use a lot of water, but others are stationery.
-Recycle paper packaging, like glove boxes. Don’t put them in the bags with biological waste, because they’re not.
-It’s tempting to use 50 ml tubes to prepare any small amount of buffers, but these often don’t need to be sterile and can be made in small glass beakers.
-Use weighing papers instead of plastic weighing boats for smaller amounts.
-re-use cardboard boxes and other packing material (the boxes that 9″ glass pipettes come in make *great* boxes for mailing packages or dividing drawer space.)
-check if your facility reuses styrofoam packing materials or boxes.

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Bob O'Hara June 3, 2008 - 6:25 AM

You missed out “become a theoretician”. That’s what I did. 🙂

Eva Amsen June 3, 2008 - 3:05 PM

Or even just making sure everything always works! I feels worst about wasted materials when I spent weeks on something and then my cells died and there were no results.

Craig Rowell June 3, 2008 - 3:46 PM

Please keep us posted on the Video I can’t wait to see it. Good Luck.

Allen Doyle June 7, 2008 - 11:44 PM

Great topic. I have lots of photos of lab plastic that we wash in our soil lab. Not sure how to make it easy for you to see them.
Our tolerance for contamination is moderate, so we re-use 50 ml tubes many, many times.
One idea I have is create a “Plastic Food Chain”, or a series of researchers that are not averse to each other’s contamination. this may be possible on a university campus where a fish biologist who stores fish eyes in alcohol may not care about a little bit of RNA from your analyses, for example. I hope to set up a campus website for that, and you can pursue it on your own. Search out Earth Scientists (oceanographers, plant biologists, )
Is there a way to actually wash microtiter plates? I’d like to get some fluorometric standard off of about 300 of them.
We need to push the manufacturers to provide minimal waste items. For instance Corning once made filter towers the same diameter as common filters (47 mm), then they switched to 50 mm and hardly anyone makes filters that diameter, so it’s more likely we have to throw them out. There are probably myriad ways we could push them; this conversation starts the process.
Sigma now provides returnable chemical shipping boxes.

Eva Amsen June 8, 2008 - 4:38 AM

We wash our plastic pipettes that we only used for buffers to use again for buffers (so no sterile stuff when contamination is important) but I find that that uses a lot of _water_ So you save plastic, but waste water.
I’m currenty about halfway done with the video. The first half (the one that’s done) is just a series of photos of labs/equipment, photos of “results” (microscope images” and then goes to “stuff”: plastic tubes, more, tubes, more tubes, flasks, dishes, pipettes. Many, many, many of them, just to raise some awareness of how much there really is. I’m now close to the part of where I actually need to show/talk about waste, and that’s a bit harder.

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