Comfort Loop

Comfort Loop


Absorbent Hygiene Products (AHPs) are typically disposable products that are widely used in homes, hospitals, and care homes across the UK and worldwide. The UN report that disposable nappies are one of the biggest contributors to plastic waste, with AHPs representing around 10% of residual municipal solid waste globally. Factors like high birth rates and ageing populations are contributing to an increased use of these products and a growing waste problem.

The Comfort Loop: A systems approach for sustainable absorbent hygiene products is a three-year UKRI funded project taking a multidisciplinary approach that involves industry, recycling sectors, policymakers, NHS, charities, local government, and the public in the design of sustainable systems for nappies, incontinence pads, and period products.

For each of these products we are analysing models for use-reduction, re-use, recycling, and composting. We are taking a whole systems approach, drawing on multiple research methods including life cycle analysis, behavioural analysis, materials engineering and design approaches, and bio-chemical techniques. We have identified three priority contexts that need solutions. These are the home setting, the healthcare setting, and the workplace setting. Our aim is to analyse the barriers and enablers for circular solutions that work in these settings, and to share lessons learned across other AHPs.

Led by Prof. Mark Miodownik (Materials), the core UCL team also includes Prof. Paola Lettieri and Dr Andrea Paulillo (LCA), Prof. Susan Michie and Dr Fabiana Lorencatto (Behaviour Change), Prof. Helen Hailes (Chemistry), Dr Jack Jeffries (Biochemical Engineering), Danielle Purkiss (Design), and four multidisciplinary researchers.

We have received £1.75M funding to undertake the first three years of this project from UKRI (EPSRC & BBSRC). We are actively looking for further funding. Please get in touch if you are interested in participating.

Find out more.

Researcher Profiles

Elze Porte - Research Fellow

Elze is a Research Fellow on the UKRI ‘Comfort Loop’ project, leading the Materials & Design research. She has a background in Mechanical Engineering (BSc & MSc, University of Twente) and has since worked on understanding and designing soft materials to improve healthcare, robots and assistive technology. As a PhD researcher at Imperial College London, she studied the friction and lubrication of hydrogels as cartilage replacement materials to treat arthritis. She researched soft material mechanics, soft sensors and metamaterials for soft robots as a Postdoc at Yale University and investigates soft composite materials to improve the comfort of wearing prosthetic limbs as a Postdoc at UCL.

Ayşe Lisa Allison - Research Fellow

Ayşe Lisa is a Behavioural Scientist and Research Fellow at the UCL Plastic Waste Innovation Hub and UCL Centre for Behaviour Change. Her research applies behaviour change tools, theories and frameworks to understand and change behaviour relating to health and sustainability. She is an interdisciplinary, mixed-methods researcher and has a wide range of research interests including circular economy, public health, participatory research methodologies, and the queering of scientific research. 

Gema Amaya Santos

Gema is an Environmental Engineer and Research Fellow at UCL Plastic Waste Innovation Hub. She has a strong background in Chemical Engineering, sustainability and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). She has used her skills to work on a variety of sustainability projects, including wetland restoration, wastewaster treatment, soil remediation and the development of sustainable technologies. Gema is now using LCA to assess the environmental performance of compostable nappies through different disposal routes. She is commited to make sustainability concepts and life cycle assessment more accessible to everyone, and is dedicated to using her knowledge and skills to make a positive impact on the world.