At PCR Biosystems we recognise that protecting the environment and working towards carbon neutrality is crucial as we develop and grow our business globally.
One-fifth of the world’s carbon emissions results from the manufacturing and production sectors, and there’s much to be done in life science manufacturing to address the challenges of decarbonisation. We know that environmental sustainability is of critical importance, not only to our employees and our ability to succeed, but also to our customers and our partners. Despite being a relatively small player in the field, our goals are big and we are committed to making big changes for the good of our planet.
Read on to learn about our plans to improve sustainability and reduce our carbon footprint, from packaging and shipping methods, to reducing lab waste and energy usage. If you’d like to find out more, or share ideas about how we can make your lab, and ours, more sustainable, complete the form and a member of our team will be in touch.
One thing that you will never be surprised to see in a laboratory, whether research or industrial, is the polystyrene box. A mainstay of reliable temperature-controlled shipping, these boxes serve an important purpose, however with a high environmental footprint. Being non-biodegradable and hard to recycle, they are not only difficult to store, but also difficult to dispose of in a responsible manner. This means collections can build up with nowhere to go.
Despite being a nuisance, polystyrene has an almost unmatched ability for insulating cold-shipped products for the duration of transit. As a manufacturer of temperature-sensitive products, we use these boxes to ensure our reagents arrive in pristine condition and they have been incredibly hard to replace. Until now.
Meet our new eco-shipping boxes! This packaging insulation is produced from sustainably sourced straw, making it not just recyclable like the cardboard box, but also compostable too. These eco-boxes have a thermal conductivity value similar to polystyrene and our testing has shown products are kept below 4°C for 40 hours. This allows us to use the eco-box for all our next-day shipments in the UK.
The straw is a hugely renewable resource as it is generally a by-product of grain farming, making it an easy choice for PCR Biosystems to switch to. Moreover, the energy required to produce the insulation is only 2% compared to that required to make a polystyrene box. It is also produced using only renewable energy sources, making it the greenest of green choices.
We are very proud at PCR Biosystems to be launching our eco-shipping boxes and making significant headway with our plans for responsible distribution of our products. We also aim to use multiple sizes of these boxes in the future, limiting waste even further. For shipping outside of the UK we will still need to use conventional packaging, however we are continuing to research and test alternative solutions to reduce our environmental footprint when sending products further afield.
Eco-Friendly Packaging Fillers and Pouches
As our customers will know, there are many elements to the packaging that you receive when ordering reagents from various suppliers. Whilst changing the UK shipping box from polystyrene to a fully recyclable box is a great first step, our aim is to make the whole package as eco-friendly as possible. This includes packaging tape and most significantly the filler material, for which we are trialling sustainable alternatives such as paper bubble wrap to ensure they meet our high QC standards for temperature regulation.
We are also in the process of sourcing a brand-new 100% recyclable pouch to replace the standard polythene bags used. The new pouches will be made to food safety standard regulations and will be custom designed in various sizes to store our products securely.
Introducing greener packaging material to ship our products is a good start, but what about how the product reaches you?
We have previously selected our couriers based on the exceptional service they provide, guaranteeing our customers receive their orders within a maximum of 2 working days. However, now it is time to account for the means of transport and their effect on the environment. This is why it is very important to us that the distribution services we use for UK-based orders are actively switching to electric and/or alternative fuel vehicles.
As we all know, this transition to sustainable transport is not a quick switch. However, we can reassure our customers that this is something that will be considered as we push to reducing our carbon footprint.
Recycling Lab Consumables and Reducing Lab Waste
Like many companies, we are more and more aware of the negative impact of single-use plastics. Plastic does not break down like other materials, but will last as microplastics that contaminate the environment, such as polluting food and water sources, and causing harm to marine and terrestrial organisms through bioaccumulation. Unfortunately, across all scientific disciplines, plastic is a perfect material for laboratory consumables as a result of its properties, which makes moving away from single-use plastics very difficult within this industry.
However, at PCR Biosystems we have set up a dry plastic laboratory waste recycling initiative with a local supplier. This service collects up to 1000L of autoclaved laboratory consumables that are taken to be recycled into strong plastic boards used for construction, shopfitting, joinery and much more. Not only is this preventing large amounts of single-use plastic from going into landfill, a tree is also planted for every box of lab waste collected!
Paperless ISO 13485 and 9001 Quality Management System
One of the most essential pillars of sustainability is the movement to reduce waste. For many years we have made efforts to limit the amount of waste we produce through our development of a completely paperless system behind the scenes.
Our priority will always be to provide the best PCR reagents to help simplify research across the globe. To guarantee we consistently achieve this, we have a rigorous Quality Control process that ensures all products are tracked from conception to use. Our very own custom-designed digital system enables us to continue this excellent standard, whilst vastly limiting the production of paper waste throughout the process.
We’re also looking to reduce paper usage in our product packaging by trialling a smaller sized product box that offers digital access to the product manual via a QR code rather than including a paper manual within the box. We already minimise paper usage by using small, A5-sized product manuals however 66% of you told us in our 2021 survey that you’d prefer a digital manual in order to save paper. We’d love to get your feedback on these boxes as they are introduced, so please get in touch and give us your views!
Just One Tree
We love attending events, especially as we get to meet the researchers who we know will love our products. As we have moved away from using excessive paper throughout business, we wanted to account for the remaining paper that we do use, for example in marketing materials and contact forms that you will find when approaching our stand at these events.
That’s why we have been planting a tree with the folks at Just One Tree for every UK contact form or online survey filled out since 2021! Eventually, we would like to move away from using paper materials at these events, however we know there is still a benefit to having a paper brochure or leaflet of your favourite product to hand. So, until we have found a more sustainable method that makes our customers happy, we will continue to plant those trees.
If you’d like to find out more about our sustainability activities, or share ideas about how we can make your lab, and ours, more sustainable, get in touch or complete the form and a member of our team will be in contact.