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Comfort Loop

Absorbent Hygiene Products (AHPs) are typically disposable products that are widely used in homes, hospitals, and care homes worldwide. The UN reports that disposable nappies are one of the biggest contributors to plastic waste, with AHPs representing around ten percent 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 funded UKRI 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.

Comfort Loop

Further Information

The project is 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.

The project analyses models for use-reduction, re-use, recycling, and composting of nappies, incontinence pads and period products. It takes a whole systems approach that draws upon multiple research methods including life cycle analysis, behavioural analysis, materials engineering and design approaches as well as bio-chemical techniques. This project aims to analyse the barriers and enablers for circular AHP solutions and share lessons learned across three priority contexts: the home setting, the healthcare setting and the workplace setting.


This project is funded by URKI's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).


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.

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.

Luba Prout

Research Fellow

Luba is a biochemist and a Research Fellow at the UCL Plastic Waste Innovation Hub and the UCL Departments of Chemistry and Biochemical Engineering. She has a background in molecular biology, biochemistry, microbiology, synthetic biology, and biocatalysis, with experience in automation and Python script development for data analysis and processing. Prior to joining the Comfort Loop project, Luba worked on biodegradable and pro-oxidant additive-containing (PAC) plastics, exploring their effect on the soil microbiome. During her PhD at UCL, she focused on characterising natural enzyme fusions and engineering synthetic equivalents for the biosynthesis of complex amine compounds. She is now dedicated to advancing solutions for the plastic pollution crisis through enzyme discovery, biocatalysis and enzyme engineering.

Gema Amaya Santos

Research Fellow

Gema is an environmental engineer and Research Fellow at the 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, wastewater 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 committed to making 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.