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Inside the Lab Laboratory management, Quality assurance and quality control, Regulation and standards, Guidelines and recommendations

The Tip of the Iceberg?

Every year, laboratories unnecessarily discard over 36,000 tonnes of pipette tips into the biohazard bin after only a single use – a significant cost burden for the lab. These tips then head off to landfills for disposal or to incinerators for burning – either way, a significant environmental impact on the planet.

Ali Safavi, founder and CEO of Grenova, believes there’s a smarter and greener way. “By using a pipette tip washer, scientists can break the wasteful cycle of using and discarding pipette tips by instead reusing them with no carryover.” As evidence, Safavi points to a recent National Institutes of Health study on tip washing (1) in which researchers stated, “Data generated using washed tips […] is of the same quality as data generated using fresh, sterile tips directly from the manufacturer.”

The average lab realizes a 90 percent savings on its annual pipette tip spending.

Safavi says that many labs are unaware that cleaning and reusing plastic consumables is a viable option and, as a result, they blindly discard pipette tips. And if labs aren’t concerned about their environmental footprint – they might be convinced by the potential cost savings. He points to a lab leader in clinical urine testing that was able to realize an overall saving of nearly $400,000 per year. Although the dollar amount varies by laboratory, he says, the average lab realizes a 90 percent savings on its annual pipette tip spending.

Is washing and reusing pipette tips the way of the future? It’s clearly not appropriate for every application but, when it is possible, tip washing could open the door to a greener (and cheaper) future.

Credit: Magdalena Wiklund.
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  1. J Travers et al., “Reduction of plastic waste through the use of automated pipette tip washing”. Poster presented at SLAS 2019; February 5, 2019; Washington, D.C., USA. Poster #1232-C.
About the Author
Michael Schubert

While obtaining degrees in biology from the University of Alberta and biochemistry from Penn State College of Medicine, I worked as a freelance science and medical writer. I was able to hone my skills in research, presentation and scientific writing by assembling grants and journal articles, speaking at international conferences, and consulting on topics ranging from medical education to comic book science. As much as I’ve enjoyed designing new bacteria and plausible superheroes, though, I’m more pleased than ever to be at Texere, using my writing and editing skills to create great content for a professional audience.

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