Packaging material and racks for pipette tips: Reduce and reuse

I would like to know if any of the manufacturers of pipette tips are working on some sustainable solutions on reducing the amount of plastics used for packaging material for pipette tips as well as take-back programs on re-using (not re-cycling) racks and holders for tips. For Hamilton filter tips, racks/cards and packaging material constitute more than 50% of the total weight for 10, 50 and 300 uL tips. When in a high-throughput lab, you quickly realize how much plastic waste the racks and packaging material are generating (see picture). Hamilton, Tecan, Beckman Coulter, Opentrons…?

Hamilton Filter Tips


Hamilton has several global sustainability initiatives in process, the first of which will be launched in the second half of 2023. I will be sure to share more info when I can!

In the interim, have you seen this post? We have some customers already using this service - not sure if they are operating outside the US though.


Agree on the horrendous waste stream. Our consulting company SmarterLab offered a service some years ago where we would pick up empty pipette tip racks and lids from high throughput labs, inspect the racks and lids for reuse, and transport them to our local The Arc (For people with intellectual and developmental disabilities), At The Arc we had set up a verified and monitored process where the workers would repopulate the empty racks with pipette tips we supplied (according to the customer’s requirements) and then re-lid the racks. All was done with head coverings, masks and gloves.

It was a hugely successful and popular service. We only offered it locally to our NJ office due to the intensive transport requirements. Our customers loved the double benefit of reducing the waste stream and supporting The Arc in their disability rights mission. The Arc workers appreciated the opportunity to be employed in their community.

In those days, once used tips were returned to racks, those racks became hazardous waste and had to be disposed of after one use. Only racks where tips were removed and not returned after use could go into the program. Perhaps things are different today with systems like Grenova and IonField.

We don’t offer that service any more but that is one way to act locally.


Thanks for the response, @EricSindelar_Hamilton. I have heard about upcoming initiatives for a while now from Hamilton - and it seems to be delayed/pushed every time I ask. Would it be possible to at least share some details about what kind of initiatives Hamilton is working on.

Anyone from Opentrons, Beckman Coulter, Tecan etc who are looking into such initiatives? @KevMcGuire_Tecan… :slight_smile:

Hi @HenningGramHansen, thank you for pointing me out. :slight_smile:

taking my Tecan hat off: I think when talking about sustainability and disposable tips, containers, sleeves, racks, holders etc there are a few considerations to be made:

  1. historically, these plastics have been viewed by the market (both consumer as producer) as commodity products, hence until recently there has not been a great focus on making improvements.
  2. the nature of the product and where it is used. Most labs will have specific requirements for disposable tips: sterility, DNAse and RNAse free etc. These requirements render eg taking back and re-using racks inherently difficult.
  3. end-user perception: how many labs would be willing to purchase disposable tips with the knowledge that they are sat in re-used racks, without any information on where the racks have been previously? And would a QA/regulatory department allow the use of such products for internal research when data accuracy is key? Just the perception of the slightest contamination risk out of production would make this a very limited commercially viable product.

Based on the above, I think any supplier looking at this topic will be faced with the same challenges, and will be looking at the same kind of improvements in the likes of investigating newer materials, evaluating different packaging options and making slimmer designs.

I’m very open to discussing, getting feedback or being told I am wrong. :slight_smile:

Tecan hat back on :

  • Tecan has focused on the Fluent being a carbon neutral product: ClimatePartner.
  • Where it is possible and acceptable, we suggest nested tips or hanging tips (in combination with reusable racks/holders in the customer lab). When consulting on workflows to design automated solutions, this is often an advantage for both us (workflow simplicity) as the end user (minimized plastic waste).
  • Off course Tecan is continuously working on sustainability and off course we have projects around our consumables with regards to this super important topic, but they take time… You should be getting updates on sustainability over the coming few months. Also, I’ve been told we’ll hear more around this and Tecan consumables going forward.

Off topic, but I like to think of the tips less as items of waste, and more as enrichment opportunities…

My understanding is that there are short, mid, and long-term measures that Hamilton is focusing on. The initial, short-term measure has been making efforts to reduce and/or find alternatives to the plastic used in our packaging. I believe the plan is to also increase visibility and transparency on our sustainability efforts on our website. Product management relayed to expect more news in the second half of 2023.

I will continue to advocate for such initiatives internally and will provide updates when I can.