Whilst medical and life sciences research and innovation have direct social, economic and cultural benefits, they also have ecological burdens and environmental impacts through energy use and the production of waste.

People at public rubbish dump pick through medical waste

As the world reflects on lessons learned from Covid 19, the medical waste burden created by a global response to the pandemic is attracting increased scrutiny. A new initiative at the University of Edinburgh is building up our interdisciplinary response to the challenge of medical waste – connecting scholars working across natural, physical, social and medical sciences, with non academic partners. In 2022 the Edinburgh Earth Initiative made a long-term commitment to strengthen our institutional basis for research on environmental sustainability in medical practice, beginning with a focus on the impact and reduction of medical waste flows.

Sustainable Diagnostics in a Post-Covid World

Led by Dr. Alice Street, Senior Lecturer in School of Social and Political Science, new research supported by the EU Funded DiaDev Project is examining the environmental impact of diagnostic devices designed for use in global health.

Single-use, disposable, point-of-care diagnostic devices that allow for testing and diagnosis without the need for laboratory facilities have become a critical part of the global health response to disease. A lack of attention to sustainable design in the diagnostic industry, however, means that the disposal of lateral flow assays, cartridges, or cassettes is creating new environmental challenges around the disposal of plastics and medical waste. From October 2022, Dr Street will lead a team of Earth Fellows to study the history of regulation around single use plastics in medical diagnostics in the UK, with a focus on the implications of policy for product design and development in the medical device industry. The project is establishing new academic collaborations with bioengineers and industry partners, building on the University of Edinburgh’s institutional commitments to the circular economy.

Name: Dr. Alice Street
Email: Alice.Street@ed.ac.uk
Website: www.diadev.eu