Here’s how Helix recycles (and how you can help!)

It involves 900-pound bales of cardboard—and a special machine we call "El Smasho"

For nearly 50 years, Earth Day has been a worldwide celebration of the pale blue dot that we all call home. It’s a promise to love and protect our planet, because it’s the only one we’ve got (so far, at least). And maybe most importantly, it serves as a reminder for each of us to look inward, evaluate our own behaviors, and think about what we can do to leave as small of a footprint as possible.

In a way, every day is Earth Day at Helix. We think about our environmental impact with everything we do, from our lab operations in San Diego to the meal services in our Denver and Bay Area offices. In celebration of Earth Day 2019, we wanted to take you inside a few of the things we do to limit our impact and lighten the load on Mother Nature—and show you how you can pitch in, too!

A greener lab

Turning saliva into clinical-grade DNA data involves many steps that include robots, complex sequencing machines, very smart people, and a number of consumable supplies. Throughout the process, any containers that are recyclable are properly recycled. We also separate out bottles and cans from our general plastic waste to make sure everything is going to the right place for recycling and reuse.

El Smasho

We employ the services of a two-ton yellow monster that we’ve nicknamed El Smasho (of course) to take care of our cardboard waste. As the name suggests, El Smasho takes cardboard—including the very stuff that you send us when you mail in your saliva kit—and presses it into bales that weigh 900 pounds each. Whenever we’ve got a few of these bales ready for recycling, we call up a service to haul them off, where they can be turned back into new materials again.

Our brawny baler, El Smasho, turns discarded cardboard into 900-pound bricks. You can probably guess how it earned its nickname.

Eating responsibly

In addition to recycling bins near desks, meeting rooms, and cafeterias across all our offices, we also compost food scraps, paper towels, and compostable containers and utensils where possible. Our leftover food from lunch is prized by Helix employees and usually disappears very quickly for afternoon snacks or dinners—and in our San Carlos office, we also work with Peninsula Food Runners to make sure every meal finds a good home.


What’s recyclable in your Helix kit?

The Helix DNA kit that you have in your home is designed for minimum environmental impact, too. The cardboard packaging, literature, and the plastic clamshell that contains the saliva collection tube are all recyclable. Before you do, though, be sure to copy down the code on the back of the clamshell—you’ll use this to register your kit online. (The wide lid of your collection tube, which contains a special liquid to stabilize your DNA during shipment to our lab, is the only thing that can’t be recycled.)

These parts of your Helix kit can be recycled.


How are you celebrating Earth Day? Tag us on Twitter at @my_helix.

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