Cytiva Is Turning Plastic Lab Waste Into Something New
A global life sciences leader, Cytiva has partnered with TerraCycle to set up a program that recycles laboratory filter devices into park benches, tables, and more
If you’ve worked in any sort of laboratory setting, chances are that you’ve used a plastic filter to purify a solution. These handy, easy-to-use contraptions are a staple in labs all over the world, but like many laboratory supplies are single-use.
Sustainable labwork has been a hot topic for the past several years, but the problem is not an easy one to solve.
Cytiva is just one of the companies out there that is tackling this problem head-on, working with TerraCycle to build a filter device recycling program. We interviewed the team to learn more about the program and how labs can sign up.
Tell us how the filtration device recycling program got started – what were the motivators and drivers?
In mid-2019, a few associates were exploring the topic of sustainability at Cytiva. “How can we be more sustainable? Where do we even start? Where do we use the most plastic?” And that provoked a dinner discussion between David Jones, Global Business Operations Leader, and Ryan Walker, Sustainability Program Leader and Dan McElroy, Product Manager Filtration Devices – one of the largest users of plastic at Cytiva.
They questioned if anyone could recycle our filtration devices since they are made up of plastic. And, importantly, who could do this? After some research, they reached out to TerraCycle and pitched the challenge to their R&D group who jumped on the idea of recycling something new.
How are the filtration devices actually recycled, and what are they recycled into?
In the first step, the customer collects filtration devices in a Zero Waste Box at their site. The box is sent to nearest recycling site once full. TerraCycle checks-in the material, separates by material types, processes the plastic into a new raw format, and then creates a new finished product.
Biocontaminated plastics are excluded from this specific recycling program. Right now, we are focused on growing the current program.
Finished products could be anything from park benches and tables to decking or pallets.
Are there other companies who have a similar service, or is this one-of-a-kind?
In the United States, we believe this filtration device box exchange program is unique. We are aware of other companies in the US and the UK that offer box programs, but none that have been tailored specifically for our products like this one. There are other companies mechanically recycling plastics who do handle biologically contaminated plastics.
Are there plans in the works for other recycling programs, such as recycling pipette tips, serological pipettes, etc?
Initially, we started with syringe filters and have since expanded to include other filtration devices, which we can include since our filtration products use roughly 95% polypropylene. Expansion depends on the recycler and their ability to handle biocontaminants and/or other plastics (like polystyrene which is used in serological pipettes) and other recyclables like glass, rubber or metal. Right now, we are focused on this current program and expanding it where possible.
How can labs get in touch with you to get set up?
Reach out to your local sales representative and ask to participate. Or go online at and sign up for more information. We would be happy to discuss recycling lab plastics with you to see if you are a good fit.
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Sarah Ellinwood is BioBuzz’s Managing Editor. A scientist by training and a science communicator at heart, Sarah specializes in making complex concepts understandable, engaging, and exciting. She received her Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology with a focus in infectious disease immunology from the University of Maryland and is passionate about all things related to scicomm, peer mentorship, and women in STEM.