Research labs can be wasteful environments, depending on how efficiently they are run, with resources, money, and time routinely wasted on common and avoidable issues. There are a number of things which can be done in order to minimize wastage and maximize efficiency with your lab.
Make sure everyone is on the same page
When guiding other members of the lab, you should be sure to explain the importance of waste reduction, and if necessary, adopt some rules that will help enforce this. Once every individual understands the benefit of keeping waste to a minimum, they will be motivated to work in a more efficient way. Subsequently, better results will be obtained, and the environmental and financial benefits should be noticeable. This will motivate the team further, creating a positive feedback loop, which will lead to a long-term ethos of efficiency.
Plan your purchases ahead of time
It is highly advisable to plan every major purchase ahead of time and establish what quantities of reagent you need for your work. Whether you need Comassie Blue, PCR reagents, immunoassays, or additional pipette tips, it is common to order more than you need which wastes both products and money. One valuable tip is to track your reagent / product usage during experiments and this will help you forecast the quantities you need for future experiments. This eliminates the need for guessing and reduces the risk of overestimation when purchasing.
You should always shop around before purchasing any reagents. There are large variations in the market in both price and quality and a little internet research can save you a lot of money and prevent you wasting a lot of time on poor quality reagents. When buying primary antibodies it is advisable to purchase trial sizes antibodies to test in your experiment before committing to full size vial. This will help you avoid purchasing large quantities of antibodies that may not be suitable for your requirements. You can also purchase bags of pipette tips and refill pipette boxes yourself. This saves considerable money and also reduces the amount of plastic pipette tip boxes that you throw away.
Waste comes in all shapes and sizes
Waste is not only physical in nature, it can also refer to time, energy, and money. Each of these types of waste should be seriously addressed, so as to ensure your Project bears reliable and valid results as quickly as possible. You should look into some methodologies for reducing waste in this sense – like lean – because they can greatly boost the output of your lab as a whole in the future. They will also result in the reduction of physical waste in an incidental manner anyway.
The most important takeaway is to persevere and track your efforts over time. Desired results may not be immediately observable, however any short-term efforts will reap positive long-term effects.