Returning to the theme of sustainable reuse, Colin Shandley offers a reminder that the effect goes far beyond your own lab, to impact science worldwide.
Scientific breakthroughs are not exclusive to the most affluent countries in the world; economically developing nations are equally striving to solve some of the biggest challenges we all face. However, the limitations of finance in some countries can restrict the speed at which these challenges can be overcome. The scientists are there, as are the creative ideas, but often it is the availability of funding, and therefore laboratory equipment, that can hold back their advances.
One solution that can aid the problem is the use of good quality secondhand lab equipment. While this may not be viewed as a first choice option in more affluent settings, many laboratories, where there are limited funds, find that equipment still has use even beyond the life expectancy that many labs put on it.
Too many times we hear of laboratories that had no idea there was a viable option to this wasteful fate of genuinely useful equipment
Take, for instance, a 10-year-old UV/Vis spectrophotometer which may not have all the bells and whistles that a brand new model has, but in effect, it still performs the same task. Laboratories here in the UK, for example, may have a replacement policy that dictates the age at which lab equipment should be replaced. This may be to reduce repair or servicing costs, spend time-limited budgets or simply to keep up with the latest technology. However, just because an item of equipment is deemed ‘out of date’ does not mean it is no longer useful.
Scientists often comment on how frustrating it is that their old lab equipment is simply recycled, when they know it could be put back into use somewhere in the world. Too many times we hear of laboratories that had no idea there was a viable option to this wasteful fate of genuinely useful equipment.
The question is, how can these items be saved from being disposed of? There are a number of companies in the UK who specialise in buying such equipment, and then selling them on, often to laboratories in developing countries. It really is the ultimate Reuse as opposed to opting for one of the other Three Rs with which we are familiar.
When the international scientific community makes a breakthrough, it should benefit the whole world, so anything we can do to encourage research globally is for all of us. Why not take a look in your storeroom, or laboratory cupboards, and see what is just taking up space. Your dust gatherer could not only generate funds for your lab, but could make a difference for generations to come.
Colin Shandley is the Director of Colco Scientific