World’s first fully biodegradable COVID test aims at tackling our massive medical waste problem

A London-based design consultancy has created a concept testing device for Covid-19 that cuts down on the single-use plastic waste that has plagued us since the beginning of the pandemic. An estimated 26,000 tonnes of plastic Covid waste currently pollutes our oceans, according to a study published in November last year. Morrama’s ECO-FLO hopes to curb that number.

“Plastic has been at the front line of the pandemic – face masks, lateral flow tests, and sanitizer bottles” Morrama’s founder and creative director Jo Barnard said. “With new COVID-19 variants constantly evolving, active testing has been and will remain to be an important part of living with COVID-19. At Morrama, we were inspired to create a test kit that doesn’t contribute to the amount of plastic ending up in our landfills, so ECO-FLO was born.”

ECO-FLO was envisioned as a one-of-a-kind test kit that, instead of relying on nasal swabs, uses a saliva sample instead. The kit comes in four parts – the test kit, the test strip, an absorbent pad, and a sachet. While current lateral flow and PCR tests have a much more complicated (and failure-prone) procedure, using the ECO-FLO is much easier and foolproof. Just open the kit up and place your saliva sample in the designated absorbent pad. Close the kit and press the button on the front, and your results get displayed on the test strip. Once you’re done, place the kit back inside its sachet and dispose of it carefully.

The kit itself is made from recycled paper pulp, while the sachet it’s contained in uses a biodegradable Nature Flex film. Morrama mentions that when disposed of, the kit can naturally break down and disintegrate within 4 to 6 weeks.

Aside from being easy on the environment, Morrama mentions that ECO-FLO’s saliva-based testing system is a game-changing innovation too. The London-based studio is tapping into a nascent technology known as Parallel Amplified Saliva rapid POint-of-caRe Test (PASPORT) to make their test kit work. Unlike nasal swabs, which are invasive and also need to be performed with skill, the saliva-based testing kit offers a much more intuitive alternative. Reading the test results are easier too. Unlike current testing strips that read C for Control and T for Test, Morrama’s ECO-FLO uses a “tick box” style to indicate whether the result is positive. The London-based consultancy adds that it could be made available via the NHS or over the counter at pharmacies.

“Existing lateral flow tests were a reaction to the threat of the pandemic and were rolled at-speed to enable at-home testing. As a result, there were almost no considerations about the ease of use and the impact on the environment in either the production or disposal process. Now we have an opportunity to correct these mistakes”, says Andy Trewin Hutt, Associate Director at Morrama. “We have developed ECO-FLO to highlight the need for a more sustainable design. 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.”

Designer: Morrama