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A letter published in the journal Nature in 2015 estimated that biological, medical, and agricultural research is responsible for up to 5.5 million tons of plastic waste each year.  This amounts to nearly 2% of global plastic production, and is enough to fill 67 cruise liners! It also means that scientists are much more waste intensive than the average person, as globally, individuals produce around 65kg of plastic waste each year. Based on numbers from the letter to Nature, scientists discard 1000kg per year – nearly 15 times as much.

It isn’t just plastic and other lab commodities that are being discarded in the lab.  According to data published by RCRA (Resource and Conservation Recovery Act) and the United States EPA,  “Scientific Research and Development Services” companies reported disposing of 26 million pounds of chemical and hazardous waste in 2019, with colleges and universities responsible for an additional 16 million pounds.

How are we to address this challenge of excess waste, while still enabling the cutting-edge research being done in our laboratories?


This course seeks to educate and inform you of the many simple yet effective ways that wasted resources can be curtailed in our labs. We will explore the lessons and topics below to give you an overview of the waste in laboratories, explain the ways that waste is handled, and give you ideas and resources for reducing the impact of waste in your lab.


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