Labs Plastic Recycling Project

Our staff are leading the charge against single-use plastics in labs by coming up with innovative new ways to tackle waste and encourage recycling.

When lab technician Lisa McMillan and technical assistant Jo Brown grew concerned at the volume of single-use lab plastics and the lack of in-lab recycling facilities, they took it upon themselves to pioneer a new recycling initiative that has to date (December 2022) re-routed 3,000kg of plastic from general waste to dry mixed recycling.Recycled chemical drum repurposed as garden planter

Recycling lab plastics has historically been viewed as too challenging due to contamination issues, but Lisa and Jo were determined to find a solution that would allow them to recycle almost all plastic items. They felt strongly that the volume of waste involved and resulting environmental impact warranted an investigation into a more sustainable method.

In late 2018, they began to consult widely both in and out of the lab and worked to develop, standardise and disseminate decontamination and waste handling protocols. They’ve also recycled steel drums to be used as planters to improve biodiversity at Sighthill campus.

The project was initially rolled out in the biomedical science and microbiology teaching and research areas, as these labs were generating the most single-use plastic waste. Steps taken included:

• Agreeing decontamination protocol and standardising across labs
• Developing in-lab signage and disseminating information and requirements to staff and students
• Addressing necessary changes to waste uplift arrangements and signage for external dumpsters
• Expanding to include non-contaminated ‘standard’ recycling within all School of Applied Sciences labs
• Establishing protocols to allow easy differentiation of standard and contaminated waste to ensure appropriate handling

Find out more about the Labs Plastic Recycling Project.