Energy & environment Health & medicine

How to make lateral flow tests more sustainable

Self-testing has become a regular part of life, thanks to the pandemic. But what does the boom in lateral flow tests mean for the environment, and what can medical device companies do about all that single-use plastic? By Abi Millar.

Before 2020, ‘lateral flow test’ was not a phrase in the average person’s vocabulary. Although LFTs had numerous applications – most notably home pregnancy tests – it wasn’t until the pandemic that widespread self-testing took hold.

For the first time in history, millions of people every week were receiving an LFT kit in the post and performing their own diagnostic procedures at home. Since the start of the pandemic, two billion tests have been provided in the UK alone, with delivery capacity peaking at 900,000 kits a day.

Not only was this an immensely valuable aspect of the pandemic response, but it was also a turning point in the way diagnostics are understood. According to, the global LFT market is set to grow by 5% a year over the next eight years, dominated by rapid self-testing kits. Covid-19 testing kits will remain part of the picture, along with tests for other infectious diseases like influenza and STIs.

While this is good news from a community healthcare perspective, it hasn’t escaped users’ notice that all this plastic is bad for the planet. Each LFT kit contains an assay strip in plastic housing, buffer solution (also in plastic), various swabs and plenty of secondary packaging.

In the absence of any major recycling schemes, the majority of these components will end up in landfill, or incinerated. This has become a talking point on social media, with users expressing dismay at the environmental implications.

Read the rest of this article in the July 2022 edition of Medical Technology

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: