Reducing the carbon footprint of our products through redesigned and minimal packaging
As a larger shipper of dry ice, we know that cold shipping of our products represents one of our largest environmental impacts. Expanded polystyrene (EPS) coolers are not easily recycled, and refrigerants like dry ice and gel packs are energy intensive and add packaging weight. This packaging leaves our customers with disposal issues. Our customers value the quality of what we deliver, and we are committed to exploring alternatives to cold shipping practices so that our packaging does not become our customers’ waste.
We have made progress in reducing the amount of EPS we use to ship our cold chain products by decreasing the wall thickness, material density, and size of our coolers. We also continually research alternative packaging materials. We have tested felt, wax-insulated cardboard, insulated padded envelopes, air-filled plastic liner coolers, chiller bags, and reusable thermal boxes, as well as more unconventional solutions such as coolers made from mushrooms and aluminum foam. Although none of these alternatives have yet met either the thermal requirements necessary to maintain our product quality standards or had a positive reduction in net environmental footprint, we continue to search for alternatives to address this and other challenges.
To minimize the environmental impact associated with packing and shipping our products, we have been evaluating whether or not products that currently ship cold can be safely shipped at ambient conditions without impacting product performance. Through rigorous stability and performance analysis, we evaluate whether short-duration ambient shipment has any effect on immediate and long-term product quality. Ambient shipping reduces the amount of packaging, which reduces emissions, decreases waste, and eases handling requirements. As a result, each year we now ship >300,000 fewer EPS coolers and use 2,444 fewer metric tons of refrigerant.
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TaqMan Assays, Plates, and Cards go paperless
Many of today’s computers no longer include CD readers, and the physical aspect of CD storage and confidential disposal can be a burden to users. In response, we now provide digital content using a secure online file retrieval system, eliminating CD shipments and allowing our TaqMan™ assays, plates, and cards to go paperless. This not only provides a more user-friendly experience but also helps to minimize our impact on the environment. By eliminating CD shipments, we are reducing annual CO2 emissions by 34.4 metric tons. Learn more ›
Several of our products were originally packaged in polypropylene jars with foam inserts to protect the contents during shipping. Recognizing how much waste this created for our customers, engineers at our Eugene, Oregon facility replaced the packaging with a simple cardboard box. The new packaging is smaller, which increases shipping density, resulting in reduction of greenhouse gases generated during transport and more efficient storage in the lab. The new packaging is also fully recyclable, eliminating over 3 metric tons of plastic and foam from our customers’ waste bins and landfill each year.
Reduced packaging for TRIzol Reagent
Chemicals that pose certain physical and chemical hazards require additional packaging during transport to mitigate risks from accidental release. Previously, we shipped our Invitrogen™ TRIzol™ reagents in a tall cardboard box with absorbent material. We have now reduced the height of the box while maintaining regulatory compliance for safe transport. This change reduced the amount of absorbent material and paper packaging by 1.5 tons per year. The shorter boxes also mean we can ship more of these product on a pallet, increasing freight density and reducing greenhouse gases associated with transportation. This change has also meant less packaging waste for our customers.
For some customers, we are able to use bulk reusable coolers in place of EPS coolers. Due to the improved thermal efficiencies of these units, we can reduce our dry ice consumption by 37,000 pounds and eliminate 9,000 pounds of one-way packaging material.
Optimizing use of dry ice
Dry ice is the standard material used to maintain the quality of thermolabile biological materials during shipping. One might assume that dry ice is carbon-neutral because it is made by removing CO2 from the air, which then sublimates back. However, it takes a great deal of energy to purify, condense, and refrigerate liquid CO2 before it can be made into dry ice. Thus, dry ice has a significantly negative environmental impact. Since it is typically heavier than the products we are shipping it with, dry ice also has a negative impact on freight emissions. With the environment in mind, we strive to use only as much dry ice as necessary to ensure the successful delivery of our products.