Beyond Energy – ACT Sustainability Label for ULT Freezers and 25mL Tubes
Eppendorf is committed to Accountability, Consistency and Transparency in reducing environmental impact and providing our customers with high quality, sustainable products. In addition to being ENERGY STARTM certified, multiple CryoCubeTM Ultra Low Temperature (ULT) freezer models have received the ACT Label. The Eppendorf 25mL conical tube family is now also ACT certified. ACT scores a product’s total environmental impact based on multiple sustainability factors, including manufacturing, packaging, energy consumption and recyclability. Eppendorf freezers as well as 25mL tubes are the first ones globally in their product area to receive the ACT Label, provided by My Green LabTM.
My Green Lab’s mission is to constantly and permanently improve the sustainability within research labs. As a non-profit organisation, My Green Lab focuses on joining and leading a broad community in the laboratory towards a world in which all research projects reflect the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility. Sustainability in the lab is a topic that continues to grow in importance at organisations across the globe. The large global pharma companies have established sustainability programs to analyse their internal processes and make changes to improve efficiencies, to weigh the influence of their behaviour and their processes in respect to sustainability.
The goal of many of these programs is to provide benefits to society and the environment while also positively impacting the economics of the business. My Green Lab offers many different programs to help organisations improve their environmental health and resource utilisation.
Combining Accountability (A), Consistency (C) and Transparency (T) in respect to manufacturing, energy consumption, water usage, packaging and end-of-life disposal, the ACT label provides an easy and intuitive way to evaluate the sustainability of a selected product. The product is validated and scored based on a number of different 'Environmental Impact Factors' (EIFs). In principle, the ACT label is basically a scoring card about sustainability.
Reading the ACT label is simple: the lower the score, the lower the impact on the environment. The label can be read like a nutrition label and shows how products ‘rate’ in different sustainability-related categories by value, which is supported by a colour-code of red to green to indicate a high or low value.
Factors of Scoring
- The Manufacturing Impact Reduction considers activities and initiatives within the production facility in recent years to reduce the environmental impact.
- Renewable Energy Use is related to the power supply contract of the manufacturing facility. Nearly all of the Eppendorf production facilities are supplied by 100% renewable power.
- The Shipping Impact describes the transportation of the product from the production facility to the country of usage, e.g. USA. Shipment, including long-distance shipment, is a necessity as the equipment is needed globally.
- The Product Content category focuses on the recycling quotes of raw material. For instruments, this includes steel, copper and plastic. At Eppendorf’s manufacturing facilities, 'waste-free production' has been standard practice for many years already.
- The Packaging Content addresses the footprint of the packaging and its recyclability. The cardboard used in our packaging is made from a high percentage of recycled material. A significant further reduction of material is very challenging, since the package must safely arrive at its destination without any damage to the product or the logistics team.
- Energy Consumption Measurements is relevant for instruments. It needs to be standardised and comparable. My Green Lab uses the energy consumption values from ENERGY STAR as standard. As a result, the power consumption values published in the ACT label are based on ENERGY STAR test results using the US-voltage of 115 V as reference. Due to differences in the testing procedures, the ENERGY STAR data vary slightly from the values which are published by Eppendorf based on data from a third-party test house. Eppendorf respects both measurements as the testing conditions are published and traceable.
- Water consumption is zero for freezers as well as for consumables during usage.
- The Product Lifetime is a topic of much discussion, as proof is challenging: high-quality freezers, combined with maintenance and service, can run for 10 years or longer. Consumables can be stored for decades in freezers although many of the tubes are just used for several hours.
- The Packaging End of Life is reached after the shipment. Collection and recycling of all parts of the packaging is recommended.
- Even the most high-quality instruments will eventually reach their Product End of Lifetime. Large instruments like ULT freezers which are made of many different materials need to be recycled in a sustainable way. Eppendorf freezers last for many years, but if they need to be replaced, kindly be sure to fulfill all local requirements for disposal of these instruments. Consumables need to be disposed based on local safety regulations.
Eppendorf partnered with My Green Lab in 2017. The CryoCube F740hi ULT freezer (Ultra-Low Temperature freezers) was the first ACT-labelled ULT freezer worldwide. Sustainability and ULT freezers may seem like a strange combination: even the most environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient ULTs still require a significant amount of energy to maintain extremely low temperatures of -80°C 24/7. But energy consumption is just one aspect in the environmental footprint of a freezer in your lab. The ACT label examines a product’s energy efficiency in combination with multiple other sustainability factors to determine its overall environmental impact.
25mL conical tubes
This latest member of the large Eppendorf Tube Family, the 25 mL conical tubes, bridge the gap between the volumes of traditional conical tubes of 15mL and 50mL. Consumables are made of plastic and their intended use is single-use. Based on this, sustainability calculations are challenging. As life-cycle analysis goes beyond single aspects, consumables face the same analytical process at My Green Lab as the instruments. In spring 2021, Eppendorf received the ACT certification for the 25mL conical tube family.
Besides the ACT certificate, users may also improve their personal local sustainability score sheet when using consumables: Smart usage of 25mL instead of 50mL conical tubes reduces the amount of plastic per tube by up to 26%. A freezer can be filled with about 30% more tubes.
The refrigerant or cooling liquid within a ULT freezer is used to cool down the freezer chamber and to regulate the temperature. To reduce global warming, there has been a shift from classic cooling liquids such as R508B and R404A to green or natural cooling (e.g. R170, R290). These hydrocarbon coolants are future proof and have a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of nearly zero. Eppendorf launched its first ULT freezer with green cooling in 2008, far earlier than most ULT manufacturers. We now have more than 13 years of experience with these coolants in R&D, production, logistics and service in the field.
The ACT certification process requires an in-depth review of a company’s sustainability programs and an examination of all the environmental factors related to a selected product. It is a necessarily lengthy process that brings to light many insights and areas for improvement. With the certification of the CryoCube ULT freezers as well as the 25mL conical tubes, Eppendorf remains more committed than ever to supporting the planet and its people through Accountability, Consistencyand Transparency in its efforts to reduce its environmental impact. But there is still more work to be done. Eppendorf recognises what it means to “go green” by focusing on the continuous development of new features and technologies to reduce raw material usage and energy consumption and to minimise the environmental impact of the business and its products. None of these challenges can be solved quickly or easily. Supporting organisations like My Green Lab are important building blocks of this journey. A focus on the environment ultimately provides a more sustainable future for everyone.
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