All those pipette tips and Petri dishes add up to a lot of plastic waste generated by research labs, FiveThirtyEight reports. It notes that the University of Exeter's Mauricio Urbina has estimated that biological and medical research accounts for about 6 million tons of plastic waste every year.
While FiveThirtyEight notes that some labs maybe able to switch to re-usable glass tools that used to be more common, that is not always an option. Some research, it says, requires sterile equipment and glass cannot always get as clean as is needed.
And it's not just plastic. FiveThirtyEight adds that labs are also great consumer of energy as freezers and fume hoods and other equipment draw energy — buildings housing labs, it says, consume between five and 10 times more energy than an office building.
To make changes, it argues that more system-wide alterations are needed, from working with manufacturers and city programs to altering internal approaches to research — to reduce waste and boost sustainability.