Industrial design studio Morrama has revealed a biodegradable and recyclable COVID-19 testing kit concept, which aims to lessen the environmental impact of tests being used today.
The London-based consultancy has used sustainable materials for the Eco-Flo kit, and sought to make the kit more accessible to people with disabilities.
“Plastic has been at the front line of the pandemic – face masks, lateral flow tests and sanitizer bottles,” says Morrama founder and creative director Jo Barnard. “With new COVID-19 variants constantly evolving, active testing has been and will remain to be an important part of living with COVID-19.”
Researchers have suggested that the UK lateral flow testing programme has contributed enough plastic waste to fill 19 Olympic swimming pools. “We were inspired to create a test kit that doesn’t contribute to the amount of plastic ending up in our landfills,” Barnard adds.
The kit has been envisioned as four parts – the test kit, the test strip, absorbent pad and a sachet. According to the designers, this would remove the “need for multiple pieces of single-use plastic” like the outer packaging, swab and test tubes. The Eco-Flo packaging is made from recyclable paper pulp, while the sachet is a biodegradable Nature Flex film. The team believes it could break down in approximately 4-6 weeks.
The Morrama design team is also hoping to make the testing kit more accessible by doing away with nasal swab technology. The team looked to Parallel Amplified Saliva rapid POint-of-caRe Test (also known as PASPORT), a developing technology that tests for the virus through saliva samples.
The most common forms of COVID-19 testing – lateral flow and PCR tests – involve a nasal swab, which can cause discomfort and requires accuracy. Using a saliva test would be potentially beneficial for “those with disabilities, impairments or when testing children”, explains the design team.
Eco-Flo has been envisioned with clarity in mind, the team explains. A push button signals the start of the 15-minute wait until results are ready, and also means that all the saliva sample is transferred to the absorbent pad of the test strip.
Morrama has also removed scientific notations on the test kits, which typically have ‘C’ for control and ‘T’ for test. Instead, the Eco-Flo uses a “tick box” style to indicate whether the result is positive. The design team adds that it could be made available via the NHS or purchasing through pharmacies.
“Existing lateral flow tests were a reaction to the threat of the pandemic and were rolled at-speed to enable at-home testing,” says Morrama associate director Andy Trewin Hutt. “As a result, there were almost no considerations about the ease of use and the impact on the environment in either the production of disposal process,” he says. “Now we have an opportunity to correct these mistakes.”
Trewin Hutt adds, “Projecting forward to future pandemics, Eco-Flo could offer a simpler, more accessible and more sustainable option to aid in keeping people safe through instantaneous mass testing, designed with people and the planet in mind.”