The article proposes that funding agencies might incentivise greener practice with a budget to fund lab washing up and recycling facilities
Three researchers at the UK’s University of Exeter are calling for action to cut down on what they estimate to be five and a half million tonnes of plastic being generated globally in the course of scientific research.
In a correspondence article entitled 'Labs should cut plastic waste too' published in the journal Nature recently, they estimate that bio scientific research is responsible for 1.8 percent of total global plastic production.
Drs. Mauricio Urbina, Andrew Watts and Erin Reardon estimated that the 280 scientists in their own bioscience department at the University of Exeter generated roughly 267 tonnes of plastic waste last year. On this basis, they worked out that the 20,543 biologically oriented research institutions worldwide would produce 5.5 million tonnes of plastic waste between them.
"As scientists, our day- to- day research relies on cheap, durable, disposable plastic. We are forced to maximise value of research budgets, and often rely on cheap disposable plastic equipment which means ignoring the environmental consequences," said lead author, Dr Urbina.
Their article urges the research community and funders to prioritise the potential environmental impact of plastics over the cost of research and take measures to reduce single-use plastic waste.
"I don't think it's possible to completely remove plastic equipment, for reasons of contamination and biological hazards, but there are definitely ways in which some items can be re-used. We want to challenge scientists to think about what they use and to see if they can reduce it. We see this very much as a starting point in an ongoing discussion," said Dr Watts.
The article proposes that funding agencies might incentivise greener practice with a budget to fund lab washing up and recycling facilities and by making it a requirement of the grant application process.