Interview with Vanessa Whight, UK Marketing Manager/Green Officer, Starlab Ltd.
In laboratories many items can only be used once. Does this mean that they cannot operate sustainably? No, says Vanessa Whight from the laboratory supplier Starlab. The company's UK Marketing Manager and "Green Officer" has studied environmental issues and sustainability in laboratories and knows where to start.
The TipOne products from the manufacturer Starlab.
Ms Whight, how does Starlab define sustainability?
Vanessa Whight: Starlab works on long-term strategies to reduce the company’s impact on the environment for both the products we produce and the day to day running of the business. As an ISO 14001 accredited company, Starlab is committed to improving sustainability in science and we pride ourselves on being a green company. Our green ideas start with our “reduce, reuse, refill, recycle” philosophy for greener products. In addition to this, we continually review our internal processes to ensure we maintain and implement good, green sustainable practices for all areas of the business. Our goal is to act as the green leader of all life science plastic consumable suppliers by helping to reduce the problems associated with research-based waste.
You were able to significantly reduce the material consumption for the TipOne pipette tips. How did you achieve this?
Whight: TipOne is at the forefront of our green initiatives. Thin-wall technology and modern injection-molding processes allow us to manufacture extremely thin-walled tips with high precision that fit perfectly onto most pipette cones. Our green tip design has resulted in tips where a secure fit is guaranteed while at the same time, loading and ejection forces are reduced. We also thought about the environment, and TipOne’s thin-wall technology means we also save valuable resources. We were able to reduce material consumption by up to 40 percent to reduce emissions and environmental impact whilst maintaining the integrity of our high-quality product.
How often can your customers reuse your products?
Whight: TipOne racks can be reused over and over again with TipOne refill systems. Refilling and reusing the racks significantly reduces plastic waste compared to using racked product. Our high-quality TipOne tip racks have been tested to withstand at least 100 autoclave cycles while retaining stability, strength and shape. We encourage customers to keep a pool of empty racks in their lab for use with the refills. As well as this conventional use, some of our customers reuse the racks for storage. TipOne racks stack neatly on top of each other and the convenient, hinged lid makes them ideal for the storage of tubes or other small consumables on the lab bench or inside the hood
Where else can labs go green?
Whight: Non-sterile TipOne refills are designed so that autoclaving is not necessary, as certification is not compromised during racking, resulting in more efficient energy use. Besides using a refillable, reusable and recyclable pipette tip system such as Starlab’s TipOne, labs just need to think green to get green. Ordering by case quantity, or placing fewer larger orders instead of several small orders, for example, reduces both the packing resources needed and the transport emissions used for each delivery. General green practices within the lab can help minimize energy use - ensure equipment not in use is switched off, close the fume hood sash when not in use, and maximize space in ultra-low freezers by using freezer racking and sample storage boxes. Seemingly small changes like switching off equipment rather than leaving on standby can all add up to provide a long-term reduction in resources and energy use.
You also offer your customers the option of taking back racks, for example. What happens to them?
Whight: All components of the TipOne system are made from the same material, high quality virgin polypropylene. This plastic can be handled by nearly all thermoplastic-processing methods, with the availability of polypropylene recycling programs growing steadily. At the first stage of the recycling process, the racks are granulated to break them down into small pieces. At the next stage of the process, the granules are heated, recolored, and remolded into pellet, and the pellets are used for the manufacturer of new products, as the final stage of the process. Many of the commercial plastic products you come across - garden furniture, power tool or car battery casings, wheelie bins – are likely to have some recycled content and could well include plastic that you were originally using in your lab. Not all returned racks are recycled though, some are kept aside and sent back out in the field for use by our refill customers.
Do you think that sustainability in your industry could become a competitive advantage in the future because customers insist on it?
Whight: Yes. We see customers demanding greener solutions all the time. Single-use plastic is rife in the laboratory but for most applications it’s use is necessary and suitable alternatives are not currently available. Therefore, customers have a personal desire to reduce, reuse and recycle resources where possible to limit the amount of waste generated in the lab. Alongside this, customers like to deal with companies that are passionate about improving sustainability in science. Our aim is that our commitment to reducing our impact on the environment will help our customers achieve their own sustainable purchasing goals.
Products and Exhibitors for Laboratory and plastic materials
Are you interested in the subject of laboratory and plastics? You will find more information in the catalogue of COMPAMED 2019!