Life science enzymes, cells and reagents are often temperature sensitive, and you need products that arrive cold and ready to work. This means that packaging often requires dry ice, gel ice and foam coolers—challenges for maintaining a small carbon footprint and environmentally responsible shipping and packaging program.
In the last few years, we have moved to unbleached shipping boxes, started using sustainably harvested materials and biodegradable and recyclable air pouches to offer product protection while minimizing negative environmental impact.
Over two decades ago, we initiated a send-back program to return our foam coolers for resuse, keeping many shipping containers out of landfills because our customers had no local access to Styrofoam® (expanded polystyrene foam) recycling facilities. However, times have changed, and many institutions and municipalities have begun providing local foam recycling services. A recent life-cycle analysis found that mailing a cooler can actually release more carbon than it takes to generate a new cooler. So, we now encourage local reuse and recycling.
How can you find out about local foam recycling and reuse options?
Reuse is always an option. Foam coolers make great ice buckets for your lab, and they cost nothing against your grant.
Reducing the number of foam coolers required is the ultimate goal. Consolidating orders to reduce the number of shipping containers helps, as does an on-site stocking and inventory program like Helix® freezers and cabinets.
If you have other suggestions for ways to reduce, reuse or recycle foam containers, leave a comment below.