As researchers there is great pride in contributing to the science and healthcare community, as the crucial scientific discoveries made each day throughout the UHN work to benefit society. With this responsibility, making choices about the materials used in the lab, waste production, and where waste goes is very important. Often the easiest solution to waste is thought to be recycling, as this method continues to gain praise and recognition for the beneficial ways it allows for waste to be broken down. However, in the lab it is not always as easy as recycling, as we deal with thick number 4 and 5 plastics, biohazardous materials and commonly untouched and unused materials. As focuses change in a lab, experiment protocols adapt and materials become outdated, equipment oftentimes is no longer needed despite never being used. So what can we do with these pipette tips, E-materials, test tubes, cell culture plates?

We have to consider reusing and repurposing.  Through sharing old equipment and materials with other labs, and making these no longer needed resources available to others, this allows for equipment to enter a cycle of reuse. Providing an opportunity for others to utilize the equipment before it is disposed of. Through creating this cycle of reducing, reusing and repurposing this not only provides the opportunity to benefit other labs who could utilize your unused materials, but it also helps eliminate unnecessary uses of raw energy and materials, production of fossil fuels, time, and money. This is particularly important as the earth’s resources become increasingly scarce and our population continues to rise.

So what are we doing about it at the UHN? We have created a Swap Shelf exactly for this purpose. If you notice that you have old and no longer useful lab equipment and materials taking up space, take a quick visit to the 5th floor by  5-103 and drop your materials off. We also invite you to take a look at the equipment that others have dropped off to see if you find anything that could be useful to your lab. THIS CREATES THE CYCLE MENTIONED ABOVE. Feel free to take even if you haven’t dropped off and vice verse. The more the merrier.

You probably don’t see it happen but the swap shelf actually gets maintained, we’re like swap shelf elves fixing up the shelf while you’re asleep. The picture on the left is how the swap shelf looked like before we started giving it some love and the picture on the right is what it looks like now. A pretty big difference if I do say so myself.

In order for this shelf to operate the way it should, there needs to be constant flow of material coming in and off the shelf. It’s just as important to take from the shelf as it is to contribute and donate to it. For your interest here are some common items that get put up on the shelf, if these sound interesting to you drop by!

Common Items:

  • Test Tubes
  • Pipette Tips
  • Pipettes varying in sizes (25 mL, 50 mL)
  • Pipette Refill Racks
  • Cell Culture Plates
  • Cell Culture Incubators
  • Falcon Tubes

Speaking of waste and how it’s important to maximize our resources considering our population is increasing, our population just hit 8 BILLION people. It’s more important now than ever to really focus on reducing, reusing, and so much more as the implications of our planet and our wellbeing depend on how we tackle climate change moving forward. Our oceans are still being polluted, fish and marine biodiversity continues to decline, forests and wildlife are still being wiped out by humans for personal gain, and not to mention our changing climate that is being driven by burning fossil fuels. This is why it’s so important we constantly try to be better and to not stop talking about this. If you are interested more in how reaching 8 billion will impact us and our planet read more here

Swap Shelf Elves and Authors: Ava Pollinzi & Haidar Mashlab