Reducing single-use plastic in Laboratories

Laura Wilkinson-Hewitt, a Staff Sustainability Architect, has made great progress towards reducing single-use plastic in the Protein Production Facility (PPF) where she works as a Research Technician.

The facility, located within the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology is used by a range of different staff and students across the University, helping to increase the visibility of the changes made.

Through analysing and identifying the areas with the highest usage of single-use plastic, Laura was able to initiate the use of alternative materials. This included using FSC certified paper weighing boats, reusable glass Petri dishes and some reusable glass syringes. She also managed to negotiate the reuse of certain plastic tubes where this was safe, ensuring these were thoroughly cleaned.

Laura explained;

These are simple changes that can easily be replicated in other labs across campus. Plastic-free alternatives to some products are easy to find, and sales reps are usually happy to help source them for you if you can’t find what you’re looking for”.

To further increase the awareness of these changes within the lab, Laura developed effective communications to advise the lab users about how to reduce their single-use plastic, and how to reduce overall waste by recycling their used products correctly.

Laura continued;

All our users work in our lab for specific projects only, they also have another lab they work in. Hopefully the changes they are making and aware of in the PPF are being replicated when they work in their own labs as well”.

Undertaking these measures, Laura has helped in reducing single-use plastic consumption in the Protein Production Facility, and it can be estimated this will save around 4000 pieces of single-use plastic items being used each year.

We are thrilled to see Laura help lead the way in this challenging area of the #2023PlasticFree pledge and hope to see some of her solutions implemented further across campus.

If you are working to reduce, or would like further support in minimizing single-use plastic in laboratories, please contact us at plasticfree@leeds.ac.uk.

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United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our work on reducing single-use plastic is linked to the following SDGs:

  • Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production
  • Goal 13: Climate action
  • Goal 14: Life below water

Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.