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Fab labs put green quest under the microscope

Image shows a group of people standing in a laboratory

PICTURED: (from left) Dan Davies, specialist biomedical scientist; James Lesniak, biomedical scientist; Jenna Walters, healthcare scientist associate practitioner research and development Piers Meynell, associate practitioner; Eve Martin, biomedical scientist; Sunny Rajkumar, biomedical scientist; Bruno Fatela, biomedical scientist; Manjot Gill, trainee clinical scientist and Courtney Phillips, chemistry automation manager.


Hospital laboratories use a huge amount of energy, but Swansea Bay’s staff are doing their bit to go green and reduce the department’s carbon footprint.

Experts say health science laboratories use five to ten times more power than a standard office mainly through the machines and equipment used to analyse samples.

Now, to try and minimise their carbon footprint, laboratory staff have been evaluating their methods and have improved their recycling and disposal procedures, along with making changes to save energy.

The laboratories are based across Morriston and Singleton hospitals along with the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, which comes under Swansea Bay UHB.

The Laboratory Medicine department has now joined two projects which encourage greener practices thanks to a £2,400 grant from Welsh Government.

The department became the first clinical laboratory in the UK to join the My Green Lab program – a non-profit organisation based in America helping laboratories reduce carbon emissions - and is working towards a certification to mark their progress.

The laboratories have also gained bronze certification from University College London’s Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF), with the long-term aim of being granted gold status.

Image shows two men and woman standing in a laboratory Trainee Clinical Scientist Manjot Gill is leading the laboratories’ sustainable project. She said: “It’s a long-term plan and we are very much at the start of what we want to achieve, but it’s important that we continue to build on what we’ve already achieved.

“It’s difficult for laboratories to reach carbon neutral status because they generate a lot of waste – often plastic - trying to avoid contamination in sample testing.

PICTURED: James Lesniak, Piers Meynell and Manjot Gill.

“Our work involves discarding significant amounts of single use plastic. We have reagent bottles that contain harmful chemicals, so they have to go into the chemical waste bin and can’t be recycled.

“But through the LEAF project, we’ve already made many changes that are small in detail, but collectively big in impact. We’ve updated signage across our department which promotes recycling and turning machines off at the end of a shift – where necessary, introduced documentation for new starters, and formed a laboratory medicine sustainability group.

“It’s also about educating staff and changing the way things have been done in the past to help us become more sustainable.

“The lab staff don’t want to generate a lot of waste, so they are really playing their part in driving this forward. There’s an ambition to help the environment and even in our busy laboratories, staff have taken the time to complete a 45-minute long questionnaire on their sustainability practice.

“Lab staff and management want to make our workplace as sustainable as possible, and it’s been a collective effort in getting to the stage we’re currently at.”

While the laboratories’ sustainable plan is very much in its infancy, it has set long-term goals to work towards.

Manjot said: “There is a lot of scope for this, and we’re determined to keep improving our sustainable practices.

“It does take time, and we’re grateful to the Welsh Government for the grant we’ve received to be involved in these two projects and help achieve our long-term aims.

“It’s something we’re very passionate about.

“We are happy with our bronze status with LEAF, but we are hoping to reach silver and eventually gold status. These frameworks contain actions with greater carbon savings, for example, increasing freezer temperatures and reducing single-use sample packaging.

“We are also continuing to work towards our certification for My Green Lab.

“There is potentially a big financial saving to this too, which is something we can explore further down the line.”

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