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  • Serena Monteiro

GreenLabs Recycling 2020: Year in Review

As we look back on this challenging year, we are reflecting on how fortunate we were to have been able to see GreenLabs Recycling continue to grow in a year unlike any other. To achieve our goal of recycling all the lab plastic in Massachusetts, we will continue to expand our operations in the new year and remain committed to making recycling sustainable by keeping it local.

One of the biggest challenges we faced in 2020 was the widespread shuttering of labs across the state. This resulted in only a few plastic collections at the beginning of March, none in April, and very few in May and June. By July however, many of our clients had returned to work in-person in small numbers and were churning out pipette tip boxes again. We were able to resume where we had left off in March while also taking on new clients. Throughout the Fall we expanded our service area to reach not just the Cambridge area, but Watertown, Waltham, and Natick too!

Measuring Growth

Our growth in the last year speaks to the want and dedication of the scientific community to making science more sustainable. We started the year with only one afternoon of plastic collection per week and by mid summer we had to stretch collections over two days in order to account for the number of clients and the amount of plastic that was filling up our van so quickly! To address the volume of plastic that our clients were generating, we invested in a larger collections vehicle!

Our newer, bigger truck that we use to collect plastic

Just how much plastic did we save from being sent to landfills this year? While data from the last few weeks of the year is still coming in, we can already say that we collected more than 30,000 pounds––15 tons––of lab plastic from biotech companies around the Greater Boston Area. This represents an almost 500% weight increase from the amount of plastic we collected in 2019.

In addition to our growing recycling service, in 2020 we also strove to create valuable content for the community by starting up our GreenLabs Recycling blog and staying active on our social media pages. (If you aren’t already, follow us on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn). One of our co-founders, Brenda, even had the opportunity to talk about GreenLabs Recycling and the recycling industry on the MassRecycle podcast’s most recent episode! Listen to it here.

GreenLabs Seal of Approval

One of the most exciting developments of our year is that our online activities began attracting attention from some pipette tip manufacturers. Over the summer, we received news that Rainin Instruments had seen our Instagram post about how frustrating the small plastic labels on their pipette tip boxes were for the people trying to recycle them.

Picture from the Instagram post that helped inspire a redesign of Rainin’s pipette tip boxes

Rainin subsequently worked with us to develop a laser-printing method that eliminated the need for these labels. This shift in manufacturing practices in favor of recyclability led us to develop the GreenLabs Recycling Seal of Approval so that we could recognize Rainin and other pipette tip manufacturers such as Genesee Scientific whose products are also more conducive to being recycled. We hope to continue to work with product manufacturers in the new year to rid the world of as much unnecessary plastic as possible and help inspire sustainable design in the biotechnology industry. To learn more about what makes a product “GreenLabs Recycling Approved” check out our blog post.

Rainin’s newly redesigned pipette tip boxes comparing the laser printing to the plastic label.

The GreenLabs Recycling Seal of Approval

What’s next for GreenLabs Recycling?

Despite enormous progress in the face of the hardships brought by 2020, we realize how much further our business has to go. Our current client base makes up only a small percent of Greater Boston’s biotech businesses. Although we’re proud to have collected and recycled truck loads of plastic each week, we’re also aware that there are many more tons of plastic pipette tip boxes that are still destined for landfills. While sobering, we are optimistic about the continued opportunity this represents for growing our business.

For 2021 GreenLabs Recycling will continue to expand to new clients in our current service areas, while stretching the geographic boundaries of our service to reach new locations. We will also continue our efforts to influence and improve the design of vital scientific plastic products to prioritize sustainability. Finally, we’d like to extend a huge thank you to all of our clients, business partners, and supporters. We pledge to keep working hard in 2021 to improve and continue to provide local, sustainable solutions to the scientific plastic waste problem.

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