April 2016
University of Bristol
Earth Day 2016: How you can help the planet from your lab
Last Friday 22nd April was Earth Day. A day which is internationally recognised in order to raise awareness of environmental issues and to inform how we can individually make a difference. This Earth Day was momentous because a record of 175 parties (174 countries and the European Union) signed the Paris Climate Change Agreement. As a scientific community, we know that a bottom-up approach to sustainability can have a hugely positive impact. But we need you to get on board, and to encourage your colleagues to think about small but achievable ways in which they can help our planet, without inhibiting their work. Here's 3 things you can do in 3 minutes and not even leave your desk. 
  1. Sign up to the Sustainable Labs Newsletter or encourage one colleague to do so. 
  2. Become a Green Lab Leader by emailing This is not a big commitment and you can devote as little or as much time as you like. 
  3. Identify one thing, big or small that you think could be more efficient, sustainable, safe or secure in your lab (or department) and email Anna at with your idea. 

Southmead are leading the way

In the Learning and Research Building at Southmead a new Green Team has been formed, consisting of Green Team Leaders (Georgina Mortimer, Caroline Jarrett and Saranna Chipper-Keating) and several Green Lab Leads. This Green Team are working hard to maximise recyclables and to ensure the University areas are as sustainable as possible. Working as a team in this way means a minimal increase in workload with maximum impact in the labs by ensuring best practice across the entire building and on-going support within all areas.

The Green Team are monitoring the energy efficiency of their lab equipment and are signing up to Green Impact Labs next month when it goes live, with the aim of becoming a certified 'Green Lab'. They are also pleased to be working towards a resolution for food recycling in the form of an on-site wormery and also their own personal project of increasing green office space through the introduction of more office plants from their in-house propagation area.

Why become a certified Green Lab?

Becoming a certified Green Lab shows that you are committed to conducting your research efficiently and responsibly. This will save your lab money and reduce the University's utilities bill whilst helping us meet our emissions pledges. It will also provide opportunity for networking, new experiences wider than the lab, and extra accreditation for your staff or students. 

Currently, UK Research Funding Bodies don't request information on lab sustainability, but this isn't to say that's not where we're headed. In future, there may be additional grant funding opportunities associated with maintaining a sustainable lab. The Research Excellence Framework (REF)  2014 conducted by UK Higher Education Funding Councils already assesses:

"Research environment – the vitality and sustainability of the research environment, including the contribution to the wider discipline or research base."

With the financial, social and environmental pressures facing research and our scientific communities, it can't hurt to take the lead early on.  

Recycling in labs

Sustainability has a stock of laboratory recycling caddy's to help you recycle lab packaging, pyrex and plastic / glass where this is appropriate to the lab hazards and guidance:

To place an order contact stating what you would like, how many and where. In most circumstances it is the labs responsibility to then take the lab recycling to the appropriate external recycling bins. 


Reuse..why its better

Recycling as much as we can safely, has obvious environmental benefits and saves resources being incinerated or landfilled. Preventing or reusing waste on the other hand can reduce our environmental impact even further. Re-Store can help you reuse your lab equipment and furniture, make use of supplier take back schemes such as with pallets or polystyrene where they are available and can prevent things becoming waste to begin with. Over the last 6 months the University has reduced pallet waste which gets collected for recycling by 28% by working with departments to make use of supplier take back schemes. If you have any ideas or aware of other supplier take back schemes contact

The problem with plastics

Anyone who works in a wet lab knows how much plastic is thrown away every day, consumables such as centrifuge tubes, pipette tips, pastettes, petri dishes and so on. We also know that these plastics either take thousands of years to decompose, or release toxic pollution if incinerated. A lot of this discarded plastic is contaminated with biohazards and chemicals and thus cannot be recycled due to public health, safety and environmental compliance reasons. A lot of this plastic in our clear autoclave and yellow waste bags actually hasn’t been contaminated at all prior to mixing with waste in the bag. Although it might take a few seconds to separate packagin and put in another bin, individual actions can have a profound effect and also drive community behaviour change.

If we don't do our bit we can't stop what is happening....
Ok, so our lab waste shouldn't end up on beaches but it's easy not to consider the fate of our tips after we toss them away. 

What can I do?

  • Purchase the correct amount of plastic consumables required for your experiments. It is so common to find out-of-date or unwanted lab consumables lying around due to over-ordering. 
  • Another way to curtail plastic use is to purchase products that are produced with fewer resources. Several companies have redesigned their products to contain less plastic, including Eppendorf.
  • Over time, labs have shifted to using disposable plastic instead of glass. By considering using glass over plastic, this may even save your lab money. There are also lots of plastics that can be reused and put through dishwashers. Viewing laboratory supplies as permanent, and not consumables, has several results that improve laboratory sustainability generally.

But mostly, unpack properly!
In Category 2 & 3 labs it will be harder if not impossible to recycle so can you unpack? 

We have a small stock of containers that you may be able to de-pack into, meaning you don't have to bring all that excess packaging into the labs in the first place. 

To place an order contact stating what you would like, how many and where. 

Lab glove recycling program

Kimberly Clarke have set up a Terracycle nitrile glove recycling program. This is the only one of it's kind globally and after great success across the pond, we are hoping to implement this at our University. If you work in a dry lab, or get through a number of gloves that aren't contaminated with hazardous chemicals or biological agents and would like to set up this program in your lab, please contact

Polystyrene shipping box re-use programs

A lot of your biological samples are shipped on dry ice and ice-packs within polystyrene boxes. Rather than recycling the polystyrene it is preferable to reuse them until they are too weathered to securely transport your purchases, as this reduces the demand for manufacture of more polystyrene. New England Biolabs offer a free return service in which you can just return your shipping box through the normal post. As an added bonus, for every box they receive they donate 15p to the Woodland Trust.


1) Anna Lewis, our Sustainable Labs Officer will be speaking at the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) conference at UWE in May. The theme for this year's Annual Conference is Learning and Legacy: The Role of Education in Creating Healthier, Happier Cities

Reminder! For the most efficient service, please fully complete your chemical waste for and sent to


The Hazardous waste site registrations have been revoked by the Environment Agency. 

What does this mean?
Instead of the old system where every hazardous waste producing site or group of sites had a unique code, all of our codes will now begin with 'UNIVER', and will then be followed by unique coding. 
What do I need to do? 
1) When you sign Hazardous Waste Consignment notes check that the code 'UNIVER' is being used, for most contractors this is on the top left hand side of the paperwork.
2) Continue to sent this paperwork in the internal post to Sustainability as soon as possible after collection and this will help us to keep on top of any incorrect coding very quickly
3) With your clinical yellow external bins, ensure you only tag them when they are full and if you feel your collection schedule is too much / too little please do contact us so we can be efficient with costs. 

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Website: S-Labs UoB 

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University of Bristol · Sustainability · 1-9 Old Park Hill · Bristol, Bristol BS8 2BB · United Kingdom

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