Green qPCR – using less plastic consumables and less reagents

GreenLabs

The first time I heard about green qPCR* was when these cute little Real-time PCR System were introduced. Actually, it wasn’t just this type of instrument that was introduced to me, but the whole concept of “you can do something ecofriendly in your laboratory”.

But before talking about this, let me explain why this hadn’t crossed my mind before:

Protecting the environment, for me that meant to recycle stuff. Which in turn means you simply re-cycle paper, plastic and metal. Now the thing is that products made from such recycled materials aren’t as clean as they used to be, e.g. recycled paper looks more gray-ish, doesn’t it? While this isn’t really a big issue in daily live (okay, it’s a problem if you’re picky about the way it looks), it’s definitely a problem in the lab. Here, you’re using methods and instruments allowing you to detect minute contaminations – one in a million of molecules, the proverbial needle in the haystack. Now, if you would use e.g. recycled plastic in the lab, you would very likely always get a some false signal because you would be detecting the traces from its previous use. And reagents … well, once they have reacted with each other, they are used up and gone. And also contaminated with each other, to say the least. Therefore, it’s usually Use-it-once-and-throw-it-away in the lab.

So, if you can’t re-use or recycle material in the lab, what’s left?

Well, if you can’t reuse and/or recycle, at least you can go easy on your resources and reduce the amount of material you use. And that’s where manufacturers of more compact qPCR instruments makes their claim that these instrument help you to run a greener lab:

The concept is: “Using less energy and material is greener.” And this actually makes sense because if an instrument is designed to use 60% less energy than common qPCR instruments. And because it’s all done in a smaller plate, it means you are using less plastic – e.g. 75% less, i.e. only around 4.5 kg/year compared to 18 kg/year. Also, smaller plates means smaller wells, which in turn means smaller reaction volumes are possible, so that you are using less reagents per reaction; long story short, you are producing less liquid waste.

Of course, there are other factors, which have an impact on the environment, such us the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process. Since there’s no data here, I’m afraid I can’t say much about it. But leaving this aside, I think this instrument is really a way to do more with less material. And that’s a good thing for the environment, isn’t it?

Besides this, there are actually exceptions, i.e. applications, where you can get away with reused material. I’ll have a look at those the next time.

What do you think? Looking forward to your feedback and comments! 🙂

*P.S.: in case you’re wondering: “qPCR?!? Real-Time-what?!? What is he talking about?!?” Here a nice little introduction to it:

    1. PCR: Reagents Used in Polymerase Chain Reaction [+Video]
    2. PCR – Polymerase Chain Reaction – Simple Animated Tutorial 
    3. PCR and Real-time PCR Animation:
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