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11 replies to this topic

#1 rkay447

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 08:18 AM

Hi all~
I'm hoping to get some input and ideas. My grad program does not do journal club but rather a "roundtable" where rather than discussing a single paper, we discuss a general area. My month is coming up and my partner and I are thinking of trying to put together something about the amount of waste generated by laboratory research. Sometimes when I think about all those buckets of red hazardous waste I see being taken off just my own floor, then multiply by the floors in the building, and then try to imagine every single laboratory around the world, it's a bit scary. Then add in the household waste, radioactive waste, animal disposal, ect. Wow. Are we destroying the environment by trying to cure cancer? I think this could become a very lively (and hence successful) discussion but I need to find numbers and statistics. I'm not even sure where to start and I don't have a lot of time to spend on this. I am going to contact the health and safety and facilities of my own university to see if they can tell me anything about our own output but how do I find out about other universities/institutions or even a national average? Can anyone help point me in the right direction?

#2 cellcounter

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 08:23 AM

Hi all~
I'm hoping to get some input and ideas. My grad program does not do journal club but rather a "roundtable" where rather than discussing a single paper, we discuss a general area. My month is coming up and my partner and I are thinking of trying to put together something about the amount of waste generated by laboratory research. Sometimes when I think about all those buckets of red hazardous waste I see being taken off just my own floor, then multiply by the floors in the building, and then try to imagine every single laboratory around the world, it's a bit scary. Then add in the household waste, radioactive waste, animal disposal, ect. Wow. Are we destroying the environment by trying to cure cancer? I think this could become a very lively (and hence successful) discussion but I need to find numbers and statistics. I'm not even sure where to start and I don't have a lot of time to spend on this. I am going to contact the health and safety and facilities of my own university to see if they can tell me anything about our own output but how do I find out about other universities/institutions or even a national average? Can anyone help point me in the right direction?

I would like to discuss it but lack specific knowledge. I suggest you look up some powerpoint lectures on Laboratory Waste or biohazards. Perhaps you will find some pointers there.

#3 GeorgeWolff

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 11:35 AM

Appreciate that you're maintaining professionalism and looking for data. Caution that, like your research, you look for the answer and not data just to defend your obvious concern.

Try Clean Harbors - it's a national firm that deals specifically in such waste, its collection and disposal.

#4 rkay447

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 04:41 AM

Well, shoot. I thought this would for sure turn out to be a lively discussion here on the forum but it obviously flopped. Perhaps I should take this as a hint of what would happen with this topic at my program "roundtable". Hmmm... that's a shame since it's an important topic to consider.

#5 T C

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 04:59 AM

Take this......what if someone on that round table says:

"We are wasting a lot of things...agreed. But do you think its worth it if we come up or atleast contribute to a sure shot way to cure cancer. I agree that its a big "if" but u got to try...right?"

You got a counter argument to that.

And I can think of things bigger than that.

Prepare well to counter these kind of remarks.....or it may just fire back.

All the best

TC

#6 perneseblue

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 06:56 AM

Well, shoot. I thought this would for sure turn out to be a lively discussion here on the forum but it obviously flopped. Perhaps I should take this as a hint of what would happen with this topic at my program "roundtable". Hmmm... that's a shame since it's an important topic to consider.


In comparison to industrial waste, domestic waste and pollution produce by power production and vehicles, pollution from scientific endeavour is small (unless it is perfecting nuclear bombs with life test). So I believe it is acceptable on the scale of things. Further we all do tend to be fugal with our consumables due to the cost.
May your PCR products be long, your protocols short and your boss on holiday

#7 Penguin

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 07:48 AM

Our lab does a lot of tissue culture and when I think of the amount of plastic waste that we send for autoclaving prior to moving to landfill every week I makes me feel terrible. Is there no company out there that will take and recycle lab plastic waste?? I know there is an issue of contamination but if all the waste is decontaminated in virkon (or other reagent) can it not be cleaned up and melted down to make new pipettes/tc flasks/tubes?

#8 hobglobin

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 07:58 AM

I wonder what labs (and the industry anyway) is doing, if the oil reserves run empty, this should come in 50 - 100 years. Are we go back to glassware? Or are there then new plastics based on another origins?

Apart from that 'd agree to pernese, we use this material for reasonable objects, and the amounts are low, compared to other industries.

One must presume that long and short arguments contribute to the same end. - Epicurus
...except casandra's that belong to the funniest, most interesting and imaginative (or over-imaginative?) ones, I suppose.

That is....if she posts at all.


#9 perneseblue

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 08:00 AM

Our lab does a lot of tissue culture and when I think of the amount of plastic waste that we send for autoclaving prior to moving to landfill every week I makes me feel terrible. Is there no company out there that will take and recycle lab plastic waste?? I know there is an issue of contamination but if all the waste is decontaminated in virkon (or other reagent) can it not be cleaned up and melted down to make new pipettes/tc flasks/tubes?


I think there is a company that will do that for their pipette tips. But all in all I think the reason why the plastics in research aren't recycled is for the same reason domestic plastics don't get recycled much. It isn't economical.

I wonder what labs (and the industry anyway) is doing, if the oil reserves run empty, this should come in 50 - 100 years. Are we go back to glassware? Or are there then new plastics based on another origins?

Apart from that 'd agree to pernese, we use this material for reasonable objects, and the amounts are low, compared to other industries.


Hobglobin does raise a point. I guess whether future scientist will return to glassware or use these future plastics would be dependent on cost and requirement.

As for alternative plastics sources there is bioplastics. And there is a technology hydrated pyrolysis which can convert organic compounds (plastics, woods, feces, animal waste from slaughter houses ) into oil like compounds. A test plant was built and proved feasible unfortunately it was not profitable at current oil prices and closed down.

And there is coal. We can now convert coal to oil like compounds and coal reserves can go on burning for about 200 years... In the worse case scenario, humankind continues burning fossil fuel until our major port cities vanish under the sea.
May your PCR products be long, your protocols short and your boss on holiday

#10 GeorgeWolff

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 02:30 PM

Repeat - get the data. You are scientists - don't work off enviro-guilt.

#11 casandra

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 09:32 PM

Well, shoot. I thought this would for sure turn out to be a lively discussion here on the forum but it obviously flopped. Perhaps I should take this as a hint of what would happen with this topic at my program "roundtable". Hmmm... that's a shame since it's an important topic to consider.

Or you can follow the money...somehow, if the cost of the collection/disposal is in dollar/euro/gold value rather than in weight or volume of waste, we can appreciate more how much cancer research is really costing us (its fraction of the total research cost). This would also facilitate your inquiry since payment for such services is centralised (the contract of the waste management company is with the whole university or hospital and not individual labs) and is usually collected from all the PIs grants specifically tagged for this purpose. You just have to convince the accounting department to give you some figures.

As an offshoot, this same company is probably servicing the other institutions within your area as well, I doubt if there's a lot of competition for this kind of business. And perhaps they might be persuaded to release the figures as well. At least you can have an idea for your area or city and can extrapolate from there. Btw, we shld also consider that in some places waste is still being dumped down the sink or in regular trash (the undeclared/undetected cost), hopefully the incidence wouldn't be high.

Edited by casandra, 13 February 2009 - 09:40 PM.

"Oh what a beauteousness!"
- hobglobin, personal comment about my beauteous photo......

#12 GeorgeWolff

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Posted 14 February 2009 - 05:13 AM

Good points Casandra. Your comment on the benefit coming from research is ever more of a driver.


I was responsible for solid waste policy for multinational R&D and marketing company as well as a member of a large municipalities garbage commission. This concern, in context of overall trash production, is trivial. Scientists should maintain their discipline outside of their immediate research - get the data rather than be driven by feelings of guilt and I believe you'll see your efforts to be gesture.

For grad students, please don't get distracted from your research.




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