Give single-use items a second life

Give single-use items a second life

by Hayk Palabikyan and Thomas Pribasnig

As stated in previous articles, the plastic waste produced in bioscience labs is a problem that requires immediate action. We will not achieve our goal of sustainable science without systemic change, but as universities and policy makers are unwilling to act, what we are left with is making a positive impact in our daily lablife.

The principle 


helps to diminish the plastic footprint and should also be applied in labs. 

As a crucial first step, we urge all scientists to think thoroughly about their experiments and try to reduce the use of plastics, wherever possible. 

In modern labs there is an increasing trend to single-use products: cheap and convenient to use, but not sustainable. Some lab items, like pipette tips, can only be used once. Nevertheless there is huge potential to reuse single-use items or switch to reusable items. We want to encourage scientists to go for the ‘low hanging fruits’ in their working routine and change what can be done with little effort first. In our lab for example, we switched from single-use, plastic drigalski spatulas to reusable, glass drigalski spatulas.

A great practice to reuse single-use items, we want to share with you here, is Hayk’s 


1) Start the day with a batch of clean cuvettes

2) Collect used cuvettes after use and fill them up with ethanol

3) At the end of the day, empty the ethanol into your liquid biological waste

4) Transfer cuvettes into a small box and rinse them (2-3 times) with RO water

5) Leave cuvettes overnight in the drying cupboard (65°C); together with using RO water, this avoids drying stains or residues of paper towels

6) Start next day from 1)

Ideally you could reuse cuvettes indefinitely, Hayk uses the same box of cuvettes for months now and has not seen differences to measuring with new, unused cuvettes. 

2) Fill up used cuvettes with ethanol

3) Store cuvettes and discard EtOH at the end of the day

4) Wash cuvettes

5) Dry cuvettes