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All That Plastic in the Lab

A number of universities in the UK are working to reduce the environmental impact of research labs, particularly the plastic waste they generate, the Guardian reports.

It notes that University of Exeter researchers in 2015 measured the plastic waste generated by the school's bioscience department and extrapolated that biomedical and agricultural labs generate about 5.5 million metric tons of plastic waste a year. Last year, both the University of Leeds and University College London announced that they would seek to eliminate single-use plastic from their institutions within about five years, it adds.

As the Guardian reports, to meet this pledge, researchers are working to figure out ways to decontaminate and recycle plastic tubes and gloves, and are also looking backward to see whether glassware might be resurrected for more widespread lab use. The University of Bristol's Georgina Mortimer argues that glass can be used again and again, though Leeds' Lucy Stuart notes that washing and sterilizing it also eats up resources.

"I think, as scientists, we need to be responsible about what we're doing," the University of York's David Kuntin adds.