Packaging and the Planet
Sustainable solutions do not stop at product design — they also consider the impact of product packaging. In 2021, the Corning Life Sciences plant in Wujiang, China, started using new shipping boxes that are strong, lightweight, and come from responsibly managed forests. Due to its continued efforts in making supply chains more sustainable, Corning was recognized for Responsible Supplier Program Collaboration during Avantor's 2023 Supplier Awards. Notably, this marked the first time the award has been given out, as Avantor had recently launched its Responsible Supplier Program to evaluate organizations' performance, collaboration, and recognition.
Corning's focus on sustainability has also led to new offerings. For instance, pipet tip racks and lids are designed to be refilled with bulk tips and autoclaved for sterile reuse. When the tip boxes have reached the end of their useful life, in the United States they can be recycled at no cost through Corning's Packaging Takeback Program. The program also accepts Styrofoam racks used for 15 ml and 50 ml centrifuge tubes as well as plastic bags and peelable plastic film made from #2 and #4 plastic. The program accepts packaging and not actual products because they may have been used with biohazard materials, liquids, radioactive waste, or other regulated waste.
Tip boxes may be recycled to produce composite boards often used for decks and park benches. This is admittedly an imperfect solution because the composite boards cannot be efficiently recycled with today's technology and will eventually become trash. With this in mind, Corning Life Sciences hosted the first-ever Northeast Single-Use Plastic Circulatory Summit in September 2022 at MIT. In a circular economy, any product that reaches the end of its useful life can be fully recycled to produce a new version of the same product, indistinguishable from the original. This means the material never becomes trash.
Working Together Toward a Common Good
Many challenges must be overcome before used pipet tips and other consumables can be reborn as new pipet tips, but the solution will undoubtedly require numerous stakeholders working together to achieve scale.
"Hosting the summit has opened the door for meaningful conversations with our customers about how Corning's advanced technologies can help us find sustainable industry solutions," explains John Tobin, vice president and general manager of Corning Life Sciences.
In addition to efforts that impact the lab, Corning has been named an ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the tenth consecutive year. This continued commitment to energy efficiency includes increasing the percentage of energy obtained from renewable sources and reducing energy intensity, which means using less energy to produce the same product.
Learn more about how through these and other efforts Corning is clearing the way for cleaner air, cleaner water, and healthier generations to come.