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Case Study

Flask Re-Use and Recycling Initiative

Situation

Triumvirate Environmental executed a sustainability initiative regarding an incubating process producing large amounts of biologically contaminated plastic flasks at tissue culture lab in a large pharmaceutical company in Cambridge, MA.
 
The existing process produced nearly 2,000 flasks per year, creating 420 bio boxes per year which could amount to $12,500 disposal costs (at $30 per box). Although the contents of the flask were not considered to be bio-hazardous, the solutions were treated with bleach and poured to drain, leaving sterile empty flasks that were then disposed of as bio-hazardous waste. TEI partnered with the lab running the incubation to determine the most sustainable solution to waste management.

Action

Here’s what Triumvirate did to create a safe, compliant workplace, and create a long-term sustainable process for disposing of the flasks.

  • Triumvirate worked with the Media Preparation department to have a bleach and water sterilization solution delivered to the lab every week when the process was complete. The solution was placed in a dispensing container so that lab personnel could safely and efficiently rinse every container to disinfect. The users could now quickly and economically de-contaminate the containers in the solution.

  • Triumvirate investigated other uses for the containers in the lab department and reallocated the materials used for the incubation process to other research. The flasks were able to be re-used to grow bacteria in another research project within the department.

  • Flasks that were not re-used were recycled as non-hazardous plastic waste once decontaminated and completely dry.

Result

The initiative allowed for the re-allocation of resources within the lab, saving time, money, and resources. The number of flasks disposed of as biological waste decreased significantly. This lead to cost savings in disposal and the department purchased fewer flasks as they were able to use the material for other projects. Over 170,000 cm2 of plastic can be re-used or recycled each year through the initiative. The decreased number of biological waste disposed also lead to a decreased space foot print in the small tissue culture lab which left space for easy egress allowing for a safer work environment. 
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