Introduction
Outer Packaging
Instructions for use
Buffer Bottles
Lateral Flow Cartridges
Validation
Key Takeaways

Lateral flow tests play a pivotal role across a whole range of different sectors; and in this blog our CEO Chris Yates  and Morrama Ltd Founder and Creative Director Jo Barnard take a closer look at the ways in which lateral flow products can be made more sustainable.

Introduction

Lateral flow kits have revolutionised diagnostics, offering rapid and accessible testing solutions for a range of applications from healthcare to environmental monitoring. However, as we embrace the benefits of these technologies, it’s crucial to address their environmental footprint. The materials used in lateral flow kits, from packaging to cartridges, present opportunities for improvement towards sustainability.

Not only is this the right thing to do for the planet, it’s also being driven by a range of factors including legislation, regulation, customer requirements and the consumer. In October 2023, the UK Government banned the use of single-use plastics in the food industry; and it is likely similar legislation will impact the lateral flow industry, in due course.

Adhering to regulatory requirements and industry standards is essential in the development and commercialisation of sustainable lateral flow kits. Manufacturers must ensure compliance with relevant regulations governing materials, packaging, and waste management. Additionally, certifications such as ISO 14001 (Environmental Management Systems) and ASTM D6400 (Compostability) validate product sustainability claims and build trust with consumers. By prioritizing environmental responsibility and transparency, companies can differentiate their products in the market and contribute to positive societal impact.

Furthermore, many customers of lateral flow manufacturers now have targets that require suppliers to provide a pathway towards a more sustainable solution whether it be the major retailers or Government agencies such as the NHS in the UK. Finally, consumers are also driving change; and, through their purchasing power, leaving businesses with little choice but to move towards environmentally sustainable solutions.

In this blog we consider the materials, size and manufacture of the typical elements within a lateral flow kit and consider some of the opportunities for reducing the environmental impact.

Outer Packaging

The outer packaging of lateral flow kits serves as the first point of contact for users. Traditionally, this packaging is made of coated or difficult-to-recycle materials. However, alternatives such as recycled (and recyclable) cardboard offer a more sustainable option. Additionally, reducing the size of packaging without compromising the performance can minimise material usage and transportation emissions.

Instructions for use

Instructions play a vital role in ensuring accurate test results. While paper-based instructions are common, incorporating digital instructions through QR codes or smartphone apps can amount to significant reductions in paper usage at high volumes. Digital platforms not only provide comprehensive guidance but also enable updates and customisation based on user feedback, enhancing user experience while reducing environmental impact.

Buffer Bottles

Buffer bottles containing reagents are essential components of lateral flow kits. These bottles are typically made of virgin plastic and are unlikely to be recycled due to their small size. Transitioning to 100% recycled materials such as PET or bio-based and biodegradable solutions can mitigate environmental impact. Moreover, optimising bottle size and reagent concentration can reduce material usage and waste generation without compromising test performance.

Lateral Flow Cartridges

The heart of lateral flow kits, cartridges contain the assay components necessary for target detection. Traditionally made of plastic, these cartridges make up over 60% of the plastic in the full test-kit and pose significant environmental challenges due to their non-biodegradable nature. However, advancements in material science offer promising alternatives. Novel materials such as paper-based substrates or biodegradable polymers can enhance sustainability while maintaining assay integrity. Abingdon Health and Morrama have been actively working on a game-changing sustainable solution to the housing challenge and our Eco-flo cassettes will be shortly available for customers

It’s not just about materials

Conducting lifecycle assessments (LCAs) can provide valuable insights into the environmental impact of lateral flow kits across their entire lifecycle. By evaluating factors such as raw material extraction, production, distribution, use, and disposal, manufacturers can identify hotspots and other opportunities for improvement. Eco-design principles, including material selection, design optimization, green energy manufacturing and waste reduction strategies, enable the development of more sustainable products.

Validation

Advice should always be sought when changing materials in a device and Abingdon Health provides a comprehensive regulatory service to support customers in ensuring the improvements made are correctly validated. There are a range of considerations including: stability, test performance, transport studies; all of which can be handled by Abingdon’s in-house analytical services team. The good news is that Abingdon Health and Morrama’s combined approach means that these challenges can be addressed under one plan.

Key Takeaways

Whether you’ve got an existing lateral flow product on the market or are in the process of developing one; there’s plenty of opportunity to improve the sustainability of your kit; and this can be done in an iterative way to manage risk and the level of validation required.

Don’t hesitate to contact Abingdon’s or Morrama’s experienced teams to see how we can design and implement the right solution for you. We can build an end-to-end methodology and plan that can be implemented across your lateral flow portfolio in a sustainable and cost-effective way.