Sustainable UCL


Reducing waste in animal houses

UCL Psychology and Language Sciences saves 750 single-use gowns annually through implementing sustainability initiatives.

Image of lab disposables

16 December 2020

Psychology and Language Sciences (PALS) at UCL have long been overachievers in terms of sustainability. They have achieved an Excellence award at UCL’s Sustainability awards or four years running, and have been recognised as the greenest department for five years.

Improve sustainability

Animal facilities are notoriously energy intensive, and require lots of single use items such as gowns to protect animals from pathogens that humans may carry.

Single-use items have come under great scrutiny recently as science comes to terms with its impact on the environment, and as such the team decided to try and reduce the use of disposable gowns.

Joanna Holeniewska, who manages the unit, engaged with users on how to reduce single-use gowns. They agreed to introduce fabric gowns for regular users, and only to keep single-use gowns for visitors.

Looking ahead, the department will continue to seek and implement opportunities to reduce and reuse wherever possible. We hope this case study will inspire other facilities to consider how their staff are gowned.


Previously PALs were using as many as 25 gowns per week. They have managed to reduce that number to just 8-10 per week.
This represents as many as 750 few single-use gowns per annum!

Compounded with fewer bin bags used to dispose of the gowns, this represents a fantastic reduction in waste.

Furthermore, single-use gowns when disposed of are incinerated as they are clinical waste, thus the energy and carbon savings are greater than reducing non-hazardous waste.

Please contact UCL's Sustainability Labs Advisor Martin Farley to make sustainability improvements to your lab.