A Sustainable Lab Plastic Solution | GreenLabs Recycling

A Sustainable Lab Plastic Solution | GreenLabs Recycling

Lab Plastic Recycling: the Science Sustainability Crisis

In the bustling laboratories of life sciences, a silent crisis unfolds daily – how to deal with lab plastic waste. 

While scientific advancements propel us forward, the environmental toll of plastic waste threatens to undo this progress. 

Plastic Waste: A Global Problem

To grasp the magnitude of the issue, consider this: globally, over 5.5 million tons of plastic garbage are created annually by scientific research, which amounts to 1.8% of the plastic waste produced globally.

Scientists generate just under a pound (0.66-0.88 lbs) of plastic garbage each day on average, or 154–220 lbs annually. 

Future trends for waste creation are not looking good either. Overall, global healthcare waste is increasing at an accelerated pace of 2-3 percent annually as healthcare facilities expand to meet demand worldwide. 

The plastics that make up this waste profile, ranging from pipette tip boxes to conical tube racks, pose a significant challenge to responsibly recycle due to their specialized nature and limited recycling options. 

Why Is Recycling Lab Plastic Such a Challenge

The sorting machinery at most single-stream recycling facilities, also known as Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs), is not designed to recognize or handle these specialty items. MRFs typically also have rules that categorize lab plastics as medical waste and by protocol, human workers along the MRF lines identify and discard lab items as trash. This protocol is in place to help keep the recycling commodities free of possible contaminants, but it also spells doom for perfectly harmless lab plastic consumables like empty pipette tip boxes.

Lab plastic consumables are often made of multiple types of plastic or other specialized materials which complicates the recycling process. At a recycling facility, it’s necessary to separate items into singular plastic resin (or plastic type) categories. When bales (typically 700 lbs) of a single resin-type are ready, these are sold as a commodity in the recycling markets and can be made into new materials.

If a lab consumable is made of multiple types of plastic, it is difficult to develop equipment to separate the item into its component parts. It’s not economically viable for many recycling facilities to develop equipment to recycle these specialty materials as they are not as ubiquitous as items such as cardboard boxes or plastic drinking water bottles that are found in almost every household across the country.

Therefore, recycling facilities may ‌reject lab plastics, despite responsible separation or sterilization by lab personnel, because of the possibility of contamination and the mechanical challenges of separation posed by the specialized materials.

This is unfortunate because the majority of lab consumables are composed of plastics that are in great demand in recycling markets.

Even if initiatives to recycle lab plastic consumables are gaining traction, reducing the overall use of plastic materials will always be the best course of action. Prioritizing buying products that can be refilled or reused is the most environmentally sustainable approach.

Addressing Sustainability Shortfalls

Focused purchasing management must be implemented to reduce ‌plastic impact. Healthcare and scientific research institutions must pay close attention to the consumables they use every day and make a concerted effort to keep track of inventory to prevent expiration and loss of product. Additionally, purchasing managers should look to purchase reusable or lower-plastic alternatives to common lab consumables such as pipette tip boxes. Check out this database from MyGreenLab to see how common brands of lab consumables are rated through an environmental lens.

Laboratories must implement secure and transparent systems that collect, transport, separate, and handle used material before disposing of it. Working with a reliable specialty recycling partner is a great way to reduce your environmental impact.

The GreenLabs Recycling Solution

With the limitations of conventional recycling in mind, the need for specialized solutions becomes evident. GreenLabs Recycling is a beacon of hope in the sea of plastic. Founded by scientists Brenda and David Waterman, GreenLabs Recycling offers a lifeline for the research industry in Greater Boston

GreenLabs Recycling is focused on sustainability and transparency in recycling practices. They are committed to collecting and recycling lab plastics that cannot be recycled through traditional single-stream channels.

By understanding the unique challenges of lab plastics, we develop innovative recycling processes tailored to the needs of research laboratories. 

We prioritize efficiency and environmental impact through a localized approach, which sets a new standard for materials management in the scientific community.

GreenLabs Recycling – How it Works

The recycling process begins with the collection of lab plastics from research facilities across the Greater Boston area. 

GreenLabs accepts a wide range of items, including pipette tip boxes, conical tube racks, and media bottles. 

Unlike conventional recycling programs, GreenLabs Recycling is a specialty recycling service that specifically handles plastic items from labs to ensure they are not fated for a landfill or incinerator. 

After collecting and weighing the plastic from each facility, it is transported to GreenLabs Recycling’s facility in Concord, MA where it is sorted by resin-type and then granulated (size-reduced) to prepare the plastic for injection molding applications.

GreenLabs ensures recycled plastics are repurposed into new products, minimizing the need for virgin materials and reducing overall environmental impact.

How it Works

  1. Receive easy-to-use bins to save your used plastic material. 
    1. Each bin can hold up to 150 tip boxes or up to 80 media bottles
  2. Once you have filled the bins, GreenLabs will pick up the plastic from your location and transport it to their facility to sort and shred it. 
  3. Then, GreenLabs collaborates with local manufacturers to give the plastic a new life to reduce your carbon footprint.

Working Together to Save the Planet

The issue of lab plastic waste can be overcome. The best way to combat pollution and create a sustainable future is to work together and utilize innovative solutions.

Individuals and organizations need to support initiatives that prioritize environmental stewardship. This will enable us to contribute to positive change and uphold the principles of scientific integrity. 

Together, businesses can redefine the relationship between science and sustainability and pave the way for a greener, more prosperous future for everyone. 

 

Get Started With GreenLabs

The lab plastic sustainability problem demands immediate attention and action. GreenLabs Recycling offers a process to repurpose used plastic lab consumables  as a valuable resource and create a more sustainable future for generations to come. 

Join us in supporting initiatives to save the planet and take the first step towards a world where science and sustainability go hand in hand. Contact us today to get started.

The SEC’s Controversial New Climate Rules Can Help Grow the Economy | Opinion

The SEC’s Controversial New Climate Rules Can Help Grow the Economy | Opinion

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s recent vote to establish new climate disclosure rules is facing predictable criticism from two opposing sides. To certain industry groups, the rules requiring corporations to track and report additional data showing their effects on the environment is governmental overreach in business. To some environmental groups, the rules don’t go far enough, since they leave out emissions in companies’ supply chains, known as Scope 3.

But here’s something everyone should be able to agree on: These new rules can expand the economy. They’re already breathing life into the crucial, growing sector of climate tech.

All over the world, investment in ways to combat climate change is increasing. Nowhere is this clearer than in climate tech. The global market is expected to expand nine times over in the next decade, from $20 billion last year to a massive $182.5 billion by 2033.

How much of this growth will happen in the United States? That depends on decisions made today. And the SEC rules are offering a boon to U.S. climate tech.

Well-designed climate tech solutions can go a very long way in directly reducing emissions from any industry, helping to combat climate change. They also quantify and report the improvements they offer—including reduction in carbon emissions. Climate-focused startups are using the latest technologies to track these kinds of metrics in real time.

Corporate behemoths don’t have to start from scratch in finding ways to provide the kind of additional information that the SEC is demanding of publicly traded companies. They can work with small businesses that offer ways to automate this. And in the process, they can satisfy not only the SEC, but also climate-focused investors who have themselves been demanding greater transparency and accountability from businesses on Wall Street.

In the few weeks since the SEC vote along partisan lines, I’ve already seen positive changes. Among founders and aspiring entrepreneurs in the climate tech sector, this is a galvanizing moment. Last year, the number of climate tech startups in the United States that were acquired or went public fell to a three-year low, according to PitchBook. Now, as companies look for ways to meet these new SEC rules, they’re expected to turn to climate tech solutions, boosting the sector—and breathing new life into this part of the U.S. economy before climate tech communities in other countries beat us out.

Having co-founded Greentown Labs, the largest climate tech incubator in North America, I’ve long seen that entrepreneurs in this space are some of the hardest working, most environmentally committed business leaders of our time. I’ve also seen that it takes cooperation with big, established players to achieve maximum results, both for business and the environment.

In the small business where I currently serve as CEO, I see how ripe big publicly traded companies are for these kinds of partnerships. We focus on the biopharma sector, providing safe, local recycling of plastic that has previously been trashed, incinerated, or shipped across the country for recycling. (This has been an especially big problem in biopharma and other industries since China stopped taking America’s plastic waste in 2018.)

Biopharma is the perfect example of a major industry on the stock market that contributes disproportionately to carbon emissions and will be impacted by the SEC ruling. It’s also the perfect example of an industry ripe for technological solutions that can help to solve both of those challenges. My small company alone is helping some “Big Pharma” corporations reduce waste and capture metrics instantly in numerous ways, including through the use of a tool from the Department of Energy known as WARM (Waste Reduction Model).

Other small businesses are doing everything from composting cafeteria waste to putting solar panels on roofs—and instantly capturing metrics along the way that will help companies provide the information the new SEC rules demand.

The more climate tech startups grow, the more people they employ. The Biden administration’s American Climate Corps is set to train 20,000 young workers to join businesses like ours. Meta‘s chief technology officer left the company to help build early-stage climate tech startups. The potential for businesses in this sector is endless.

While people on opposing sides of the ideological spectrum may battle over the new SEC rules, millions of people like me—and other “climate tech warriors” across the country—are getting to work. We’re embracing this as an opportunity to advance both the climate and the economy. And we see a bright future.

Sam White is co-founder of Greentown Labs and CEO of GreenLabs Recycling.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

Why Investors Should Probe Corporations’ Hyperlocal Manufacturing Efforts

Why Investors Should Probe Corporations’ Hyperlocal Manufacturing Efforts

Investors are increasingly concerned about how war in the Middle East could affect supply chains — and with good reason. At Davos, business leaders warned that attacks by Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthi militants, including against U.S. ships, “could affect supply chains for months and lead to a shortage of tankers needed to transport fuel,” Reuters reports.

It’s not only disruptions stemming from wars that corporations have to worry about. Traffic through the Panama Canal has been sliced due to drought. And perennial problems including labor shortages, tensions with China and cyber vulnerability continue to take a toll as well.

Businesses have been working to recoup losses from supply chain woes they suffered throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, which lowered stock values. The latest developments serve as a strong reminder that sourcing goods from across the world brings risks to companies and investors.

Meanwhile, domestic shipping is becoming more expensive as well. Package delivery giants have hiked prices by as much as 8% and are increasing surcharges, Supply Chain Dive reports.

Businesses could spare themselves, their customers and their shareholders many of these costs by stepping up their investments into a solution that often gets far too little attention: hyperlocal manufacturing.

Hyperlocal manufacturing allows businesses to have greater direct control than ever over their supply chains by sourcing and manufacturing parts and goods created nearby, with no need for delivery companies to travel long distances. It’s become more of a viable solution as additive manufacturing makes more types of products available for 3D printing. But it’s also viable as a solution for traditional manufacturing.

The more they look for manufacturing close to home, the more businesses become both financially and environmentally sustainable, attracting investors across the board — including those who want to support companies that demonstrate environmental stewardship.

A growing number of shareholders are interested in climate-focused investing. They want to see businesses acknowledge and reduce their carbon footprints. This includes the environmental impact of shipping. “Billions of tons of cargo are transported around the world each year by trucks, planes, ships, and trains. This transportation makes up 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions,” MIT reports.

Sometimes, hyperlocal manufacturing can offer yet another benefit. It can help companies reduce the costs and carbon footprint of their recycling programs.

Ironically, many corporations add emissions to the atmosphere by having their recyclables shipped long distances. Recycling trucks are among heavy-duty vehicles, which have disproportionately high emissions, Waste Dive reports. Regulators are looking to “rein in emissions from heavy-duty vehicles.”

If companies can find ways to instead have recyclable materials processed locally and used to manufacture products they need, they’ll maximize the benefits and the savings for shareholders.

I discovered this after I was brought in as CEO of GreenLabs Recycling in Concord, Mass. We originally focused on working with local life sciences companies to recycle plastic parts that were ending up in landfills or incinerated. Traditional waste haulers don’t recycle plastic that looks like a lab product, fearing contamination. They either reject it outright or trash it when it arrives at their facilities. Some companies ship their plastic long distances — even all the way across the country — to recycling facilities.

After recycling the plastics we collected, we used the resins to manufacture products for general use. Then MIT, one of our life sciences clients, asked me, “Why don’t you manufacture a lab product to sell back to us, creating a circular economy?” So we created a benchtop hazardous waste bin.

When I tell investors about this, their eyes often light up. As I know well from having co-founded Greentown Labs, the largest climate tech incubator in North America, investors can be a powerful driving force in helping companies discover solutions for cost savings and environmental improvements.

No one is better equipped than shareholders to help businesses discover hyperlocal manufacturing opportunities. In earnings calls and other interactions, ask executives about their hyperlocal strategies in all the areas they serve. Ask whether they’ve done deep-dive analyses of their manufacturing needs to determine what could be sourced close to their facilities. Find out whether their recycling company can coordinate with local injection molders to create a hyperlocal recycling and manufacturing ecosystem.

The companies that show knowledge and leadership in this arena will be strengthening their operations and protecting their investors through challenges ahead — involving both supply chains and environmental efforts — in the years to come.

Sam White is CEO of GreenLabs Recycling, which collects and recycles non-hazardous plastic from research facilities in Greater Boston, providing recycling solutions to help make science sustainable. He can be reached at [email protected].

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Commentary: Why Boston’s life sciences sector should fuel a new climatetech niche

Commentary: Why Boston’s life sciences sector should fuel a new climatetech niche

Gov. Maura Healey was right when she called Massachusetts “the global epicenter” of life sciences last spring. The sector had been booming for years. And although it has seen layoffs recently, “Most industry watchers have cautious optimism for 2024,” the Business Journal reported recently.

Being a leader in the space offers tremendous advantages and economic opportunities to our region. But it also comes with a responsibility. In delivering life-saving solutions, the life sciences industry takes an environmental toll — one far worse than many people realize.

“For most industrialized nations, healthcare systems account for nearly 10 percent of national greenhouse-gas emissions, a higher proportion than either the aviation or shipping industries,” McKinsey reports. And within healthcare, life sciences companies are especially damaging, with emissions two to three times higher than “healthcare delivery organizations” such as hospitals and medical centers, the report says.

The global life sciences industry alone is expected to double in size by 2030. Its carbon footprint could easily double with it, unless major action is taken right away. As the industry’s “epicenter,” the Boston metro area should lead the way in bringing sustainability to life sciences.

Fortunately, this spells economic opportunity, including for small businesses. Rather than trying to make all the necessary changes in-house, biotech and biopharma giants have good reason to look for startups with whom they can contract to help them transform their operations and reduce emissions.

Having co-founded Greentown Labs here in Boston more than a decade ago and watched it grow into the largest climatetech incubator in North America, I’ve seen how powerful partnerships between large companies and climate-focused startups can be. In fact, corporations are some of the most important and impactful clients for climatetech startups. In the coming years, I expect more niche climatetech startups to take root, including those specifically focused on solutions for life sciences.

I joined this space last year, having been hired as CEO of GreenLabs Recycling, which collects and recycles certain plastics from laboratories (including pipette tip boxes and media bottles) that have mostly been sent to landfills, incinerated, or sent across the country for recycling, adding to emissions from shipping. Our entire recycling system is local, and includes using the plastic to manufacture a lab product. Another local example is MacroCycle Technologies, which turns media bottles into virgin-grade mPET resins.

There are infinite possibilities for ways to make a dent in the life sciences sector’s environmental impact. In fact, McKinsey estimates that about 60% of emissions for pharma companies “can be abated at near-zero cost by 2040.”

Developing climatetech solutions for life sciences can be especially challenging. For example, the unique dangers and potential toxicity of chemicals used in labs require any company dealing with these materials to take all sorts of special precautions. There are also numerous important regulations involving any business that serves this sector. So these startups have good reason to snatch up talent with experience working for life sciences companies.

As leaders work to build the future of Boston’s life sciences sector, they should keep this kind of innovation front of mind. The more the region fuels climatetech for “big pharma,” the stronger our ecosystem will be — both financially and environmentally.

Sam White is CEO of GreenLabs Recycling in Concord.

The SEC’s Controversial New Climate Rules Can Help Grow the Economy | Opinion

The SEC’s Controversial New Climate Rules can Help Grow the Economy | Opinion

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s recent vote to establish new climate disclosure rules is facing predictable criticism from two opposing sides. To certain industry groups, the rules requiring corporations to track and report additional data showing their effects on the environment is governmental overreach in business. To some environmental groups, the rules don’t go far enough, since they leave out emissions in companies’ supply chains, known as Scope 3.

But here’s something everyone should be able to agree on: These new rules can expand the economy. They’re already breathing life into the crucial, growing sector of climate tech.

All over the world, investment in ways to combat climate change is increasing. Nowhere is this clearer than in climate tech. The global market is expected to expand nine times over in the next decade, from $20 billion last year to a massive $182.5 billion by 2033.

How much of this growth will happen in the United States? That depends on decisions made today. And the SEC rules are offering a boon to U.S. climate tech.

Well-designed climate tech solutions can go a very long way in directly reducing emissions from any industry, helping to combat climate change. They also quantify and report the improvements they offer—including reduction in carbon emissions. Climate-focused startups are using the latest technologies to track these kinds of metrics in real time.

Corporate behemoths don’t have to start from scratch in finding ways to provide the kind of additional information that the SEC is demanding of publicly traded companies. They can work with small businesses that offer ways to automate this. And in the process, they can satisfy not only the SEC, but also climate-focused investors who have themselves been demanding greater transparency and accountability from businesses on Wall Street.

In the few weeks since the SEC vote along partisan lines, I’ve already seen positive changes. Among founders and aspiring entrepreneurs in the climate tech sector, this is a galvanizing moment. Last year, the number of climate tech startups in the United States that were acquired or went public fell to a three-year low, according to PitchBook. Now, as companies look for ways to meet these new SEC rules, they’re expected to turn to climate tech solutions, boosting the sector—and breathing new life into this part of the U.S. economy before climate tech communities in other countries beat us out.

Having co-founded Greentown Labs, the largest climate tech incubator in North America, I’ve long seen that entrepreneurs in this space are some of the hardest working, most environmentally committed business leaders of our time. I’ve also seen that it takes cooperation with big, established players to achieve maximum results, both for business and the environment.

In the small business where I currently serve as CEO, I see how ripe big publicly traded companies are for these kinds of partnerships. We focus on the biopharma sector, providing safe, local recycling of plastic that has previously been trashed, incinerated, or shipped across the country for recycling. (This has been an especially big problem in biopharma and other industries since China stopped taking America’s plastic waste in 2018.)

Biopharma is the perfect example of a major industry on the stock market that contributes disproportionately to carbon emissions and will be impacted by the SEC ruling. It’s also the perfect example of an industry ripe for technological solutions that can help to solve both of those challenges. My small company alone is helping some “Big Pharma” corporations reduce waste and capture metrics instantly in numerous ways, including through the use of a tool from the Department of Energy known as WARM (Waste Reduction Model).

Other small businesses are doing everything from composting cafeteria waste to putting solar panels on roofs—and instantly capturing metrics along the way that will help companies provide the information the new SEC rules demand.

The more climate tech startups grow, the more people they employ. The Biden administration’s American Climate Corps is set to train 20,000 young workers to join businesses like ours. Meta‘s chief technology officer left the company to help build early-stage climate tech startups. The potential for businesses in this sector is endless.

While people on opposing sides of the ideological spectrum may battle over the new SEC rules, millions of people like me—and other “climate tech warriors” across the country—are getting to work. We’re embracing this as an opportunity to advance both the climate and the economy. And we see a bright future.

Sam White is co-founder of Greentown Labs and CEO of GreenLabs Recycling.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.