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There is life beyond EPS boxes!

As a research centre, we frequently have to transport biological samples in the cold chain, which produces a large amount of waste that is difficult to recycle or reuse. The vast majority of samples arrive in boxes made of polystyrene foam (expanded polystyrene, or EPS). This plastic material is very resistant and a great insulator, which means goods arrive in boxes in good condition that can be reused and returned to the supplier. However, parcels usually arrive via courier companies who do not want to handle returning empty packaging. About 10 m3 of empty boxes are collected at the PCB each week; after that, the waste lorry takes them to the cement works to be used as fuel. It is a very difficult material to recycle and there are hardly any options where we are located.

For some time now, certain packaging companies have been developing sustainable solutions for transporting and preserving samples in cold storage. They use cardboard boxes that are surrounded by pressed cardboard liners that act as insulation, making the entire box and filler recyclable.

Slowly, some companies manufacturing biological samples are now replacing their plastic packaging with sustainable alternatives, but it would be positive to put pressure on suppliers as environmentally sensitive customers and request a change of packaging right now.

Also those companies located in the PCB that ship cold samples could use non-plastic packaging and thus reduce the production of non-recyclable waste.

Here are the names of some manufacturers offering boxes with cardboard filling, but there are sure to be more. It’s a good avenue to explore!