Pregnancy testing and the cost to our planet

Pregnancy testing and the cost to our planet

As we discussed in our article about the history of pregnancy tests, there hasn’t been much innovation in the industry since the first modern “wand” hit the shelves in 1988. Yes, some tests are sleeker. Some are digital. Some (like Ovry’s) are ultra-sensitive. But overall, the technology has stayed the same. That means single-use plastic continues piling into our landfills and pouring into our oceans. 

What has changed—and what remains a driving force behind Ovry—is the desire to be more sustainable. Young Canadians are especially concerned about this problem and how it affects the environment. Of those surveyed in a 2019 poll, 40% said climate change was the most important issue facing the country. 

Mass production of plastics, which began just six decades ago, has accelerated so rapidly that it has created 8.3 billion metric tons—most of it in disposable products that end up as trash,” a National Geographic article explains.

Plastic takes 400 years to degrade, and about 79% of it has gone to the landfill or into the natural environment. And global plastic production is not showing signs of slowing down, despite red flags being raised by environmentalist groups. 

A briefing at European Parliament in 2017 outlined that plastic production is set to “double by 2036 and almost quadruple by 2050.”

What role do pregnancy tests play?

You might think, “Well, pregnancy tests can’t contribute THAT much to pollution!” But you’d be wrong. In fact more than 20 million at-home tests are sold each year since the 1970s—and that’s just in the United States.

It’s not all bad news, as bleak as it may seem. Companies are deciding to change for the better. Ovry, for example, was founded with this in mind. That’s why almost all of our packaging is recyclable. We use less plastic because our pregnancy test strips are much smaller than the bulky store bought tests. 

So, what’s the cost to our planet?

Around the world, people are projected to spend $8.7 billion on lateral flow assays—commonly used for pregnancy and fertility testing—by 2023. While that industry flourishes, it’s costing the world a massive amount of money and risking the health of the environment. A 2019 study says plastic pollution costs up to $3,300 to $33,000 a year per tonne of marine plastic alone. For reference, at least 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. 

“Plastics are cheap, lightweight and adaptable in ways many of the alternatives are not,” director of the school of packaging at Michigan State University Susan Selke told the BBC. 

Turning away from single-use plastic products won’t happen overnight, because of how convenient and versatile it is. But, economically, it’s in our best interest to use less of it or stop using it unnecessarily. Even the Canadian government is stepping in, with a zero plastic waste by 2030 plan.

Here are some simple ways you can do your part. To learn more, check out the nonprofit group, Plasticides:

  • Drink out of a reusable water bottle 
  • Shop with reusable bags
  • Recycle 
  • Shop locally 
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