UWE Bristol takes pioneering approach to increasing plastics recycling in science labs

Media Relations Team, 11 September 2023

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UWE Bristol student Perfect Edenojie recycling plastics in a science laboratory
UWE Bristol student Perfect Edenojie has helped with the introduction of the new recycling system

UWE Bristol has formed a new partnership with RecycleLab on a campaign to raise awareness and increase the sustainable disposal of single-use plastics produced in its laboratories.

Every year in the UK the bioscience industry produces 5.5 million tonnes of plastic waste – the equivalent to the combined tonnage of 67 cruise ships. The majority of this plastic waste is incinerated, producing over nine million tonnes of damaging greenhouse gases. An exact figure for laboratory plastics thrown away at the University is not known, but it is estimated to be a considerable amount and that much of it ends up as general waste.

In a first of its kind initiative at a UK university, UWE Bristol has joined up with RecycleLab on a project in the University’s School of Applied Sciences. Formed in 2022, RecycleLab is an innovative new recycling service aiming to change the current clinical waste management industry by providing a sustainable solution for single-use plastic waste from science and healthcare labs.

At the beginning of the current academic year, a communication campaign will be trialled with one group of students. Using video, posters and face-to-face messages given by lab technicians, students will be informed about the more sustainable disposal of a wide variety of lab waste materials and in particular, plastics. By increasing awareness and providing an appropriate recycling system, it is hoped that students will be motivated to recycle correctly and to feel that they are making a difference.

Marcus Olivant, technical manager in UWE Bristol’s College of Health, Science and Society, said: “The project is a trial and will take place in one of the large teaching labs until December. If it is effective, it will be rolled out to all teaching labs covering approximately 1,700 students. If successful this will represent a big shift in student behaviour and in sustainable recycling of our bioscience waste, all contributing to UWE Bristol's sustainability targets.

“We’re aiming to reduce the environmental impact of our laboratory teaching and to increase the quality of the student experience.”

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