Covid Caused Shortage of Basic Plastic Science Supplies : The Indicator from Planet Money A lot of pandemic-related supply chain snafus have been corrected, but scientists are still struggling to get some of their most basic supplies. What's going on?

Plastic Is The New Toilet Paper For Scientists

Plastic Is The New Toilet Paper For Scientists

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DAMIEN MEYER/AFP via Getty Images
(DAMIEN MEYER/AFP via Getty Images)
DAMIEN MEYER/AFP via Getty Images

Remember at the beginning of the pandemic when all these weird, previously basic seeming products were sold out at the store? Like toilet paper? For many of us, these shortages have gone away. But for scientists — no dice. All kinds of plastic lab supplies, like petri dishes and pipettes have been back ordered for months. Prices are soaring. Scientists are bartering, even hoarding supplies. If you are a lab scientist right now, plastics are the new toilet paper.

We go on a hunt to track down the answer: what is behind the shortages in the multi-billion dollar plastic lab supply industry? We speak to people all the way up the supply chain: first, someone working in a lab, then someone at a lab supply distributor, and finally someone at a manufacturer.

So what's the culprit? There are a lot of reasons for this shortage, but the big answer — like with so many other things these days — is the pandemic. While many industries are struggling with shipping delays, the plastic lab supply industry has another problem to confront: the rise of Covid testing and vaccine development.

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