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Medlab Middle East to focus on reducing carbon footprint of resource-intensive medical laboratories

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Discussions on how to address sustainability in the laboratory will be in focus at Medlab Middle East.

Medlab Middle East has announced a vital focus of the MENA region’s largest medical laboratory exhibition and congress in 2023 will be driving sustainable operations and ensuring laboratories are taking steps to future-proof their operations.

According to data from the non-profit organisation My Green Lab, laboratories consume ten times the power and four times the water of commercial office space and generate an average of 5.5 million metric tonnes of plastic rubbish annually.

As part of Medlab Middle East this year, various presentations and discussions will take place around redesigning old laboratories, refocusing laboratory technicians, optimising laboratory practices, addressing energy consumption, and recycling, with a particular focus on plastics.

Tom Coleman, Exhibition Director, Informa Markets Healthcare, said: “Firstly, it is crucial to address the huge role the laboratory industry has had in developing medical advances which have helped shape the healthcare industry, most recently, the work carried out in the fight against COVID-19, with diagnosis, monitoring, development of vaccines, testing protocols, and testing kits all done in laboratories.

“To do this, labs require environments which naturally use a lot of energy – they need to be air-conditioned 24/7, there’s also the use of special equipment that uses a lot of electricity and water, and finally, the single-use plastic which is often integral to maintaining safety. It is difficult to remove all of these elements. However, what we can do is highlight the small changes that can have a significant impact on reducing the carbon footprint.”

Building sustainable medical laboratories

Several elements of the laboratory have been identified as having the potential to save energy and water. The redesign or retrofit of old laboratories is of paramount importance as this can support more environmentally friendly ways of disposing of waste. New equipment and technology can facilitate the storage of potent chemicals for longer, while increased ventilation can also support sustainable goals.

Retraining of laboratory technicians to highlight sustainable work practices, the introduction of plastic recycling processes and reuse programs to address the reliance on plastics in the laboratory, and the use of ACT labels, which are designed to make comparing and choosing more sustainable products for the laboratory easier, are among the other factors that have been identified to help increase sustainability.

Some of the primary measures that can be implemented include turning off unused lights and equipment and using LED lighting; doing routine equipment checks and maintenance; cleaning and defrosting freezers; sharing equipment; avoiding using ultra-pure water when tap water is sufficient; separating waste; donating unused equipment and consumables; and reducing and reusing where possible.

One of the factors still preventing many laboratories in the region and on a global stage from achieving their sustainability goals is the need for more metrics and standards, as outlined by Dr Rana Nabulsi, Head of Operations & Quality-Pathology & Genetics, DHA.

She said, "There are no benchmarks or metrics for calculating laboratory sustainability. That’s because, till now, there hasn’t been an active effort toward rationalising the same.

“At our laboratory in Dubai, we are already working and adhering to international sustainability standards so that we can do our bit. However, we need guidelines specific to laboratories at a regional level, which will make it easier for a uniform way of researching and disposing of sustainably.”

Other sustainable initiatives at Medlab Middle East 2023 include a partnership with Dubai Can, the sustainability initiative created by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, which aims to reduce the single-use plastic water bottle waste in the city. Electric usage for the event is now from renewable sources and all exhibitors are encouraged to use reusable and recyclable stands.

The exhibition, which returns to the Dubai World Trade Centre from 6 – 9 February as a standalone event following unprecedented demand from exhibitors and visitors, will be held under the theme of “paving the way for technological advancements and sustainability in laboratory medicine.” More than 700 exhibitors have already confirmed their attendance, with more than 20,000 visitors expected to attend the exhibition.

For more information, visit https://www.medlabme.com/en/home.html

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