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Lab'oucle: a pilot recycling scheme for unsoiled laboratory plastics

Partner the CNRS is continuing to deploy actions  to reduce and recycle plastic waste in its own place of work, the European Institute of Marine Studies (IUEM). Following the installation of multi-stream sorting islands, the recycling of cigarette butts and the installation of water fountains, interventions are now focusing on unsoiled plastic waste generated by laboratory research activities (e.g. tubes, cones, vials).

The laboratory plastics recycling project wins the final of the SEA-EU Makeathon

In November 2021, an IUEM team participated in the Makeathon, a creative marathon organised at the UBO Open Factory as part of the European SEA-EU project and the “Innovative and Sustainable Campus” program. This initiative resulted in the rapid prototyping of a 50 mL conical tube rack designed from sorted, crushed and recycled laboratory plastics using equipment at the UBO FabLab.

The final of the Makeathon, which , took place at the University of Split in Croatia on 10 March, brought together the universities of Cadiz, Gdansk, Malta and Brest. The IUEM’s project “Lab’oucle: the second life of laboratory plastics” shared 1st place at the competition.

The transformation of plastic waste into useful and sustainable objects

The objective of this project is to :

  • create and sustain an onsite recycling scheme for unsoiled laboratory plastics
  • use this plastic waste to create useful and sustainable objects

The process of giving a second life to plastic can be split into two stages:

  1. In the IUEM laboratories: set-up of ten collection points for different non-contaminated rigid plastic items, then sorting plastics according to their type and colour. In three months, more than 30 kilograms of unsoiled rigid plastics were collected from 3/10  IUEM collection points.
  2. At the UBO Open Factory: the grinding of plastics into small granules, and then using these granules in the injection machine or in the press to create new objects, like: racks, furniture, clocks, supports, pots, etc.

On 18 March 2022, for World Recycling Day, a demonstration of shredding laboratory plastics was organised at the institute. This was an opportunity to raise awareness of the scheme and gather ideas and the needs of staff, to find out which objects it would be useful to make from this new raw material.

Screen stands, laboratory furniture, shelves, storage boxes, buckets/field equipment, and kayaks all got a mention. As the scheme continues with the collection and sorting of plastics within laboratories across the institute, these ideas may one day become reality!

Article first published on the IUEM website

Photo credit: Ika Paul-Pont / CNRS;  University of Split