After 15 years in the biomedical industry, Mickey Blake became frustrated by the sheer amount of laboratory waste produced every day. Two years ago, she and her partner Peter Kegel set out to identify the largest unregulated laboratory waste products. Turns out it was single-use plastics; in fact Blake estimates that more than 500,000 tons of single-use plastics are going into the landfill each year, creating a long-term pollution problem. This discovery led to the launch of Mt. Baker Bio in Everett, Washington.
“Identifying this was a challenge because there were little to no metrics in place. Next to water and energy consumption, plastics are one of the most significant forms of waste, but there was no direct infrastructure in place to help deal with the issue. There is a huge push to conserve water, energy and safe chemicals usage but virtually nothing addressing plastics.” Blake and Kegel designed environmentally friendly alternatives that are recyclable, reusable or can be recognized as a food source by microorganisms in a biologically active landfill.
Laboratory sustainability is a relatively new concept. Because of this, Mt. Baker Bio created a consulting and education division to educate institutions on how they can adopt new products and practices. Mt. Baker Bio is the first company to release a comprehensive line of environmentally sustainable plastic alternatives and services. Blake says, “We work directly with academic and industrial institutions to develop a full solution approach to laboratory sustainability.”
Blake aims to explore other avenues to green up the biomedical community, but holds a closer goal of creating jobs north of Seattle and beyond. In fact, she’s working to open up a branch in Wyoming so the labs there that often pay higher costs can have a chance to purchase locally-sourced and sustainable supplies. “They pay more because there are no local supply solutions, little competition from vendors and higher transportation costs. Mt. Baker Bio believes that the key to being truly sustainable is localization. Our goal is to form partnerships in under-serviced areas and support them with supplies, infrastructure and innovation that will give them a competitive advantage against the competition. This will reduce packaging, transportation costs and stimulate the local economy by creating jobs. “
The American Jobs Act will enable Blake to offer up to 10 fulltime jobs to American veterans in Washington and Wyoming in 2012. According to Baker, “long-term unemployed yet qualified individuals have been a target for our most recent hiring actions. Veteran affairs incentives in the American Jobs Act are particularly attractive due to the potential assistance to hire and train individuals that have passion and interest in our company but don’t necessarily have the education requirements. It will also help fulfill our company goals for a diverse working environment. The incentives could help drive our growth and move additional part-time employees to full-time positions."
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