“We had the means, and now we have the will” – Andrew Lamb 

During a crisis, we are more open to change, whether that be a change in routine and mindset or a re-engineered chain of approach and supply. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has triggered an unprecedented scale of demand for PPE in order to reduce the likelihoods of infections. However, the ‘bullwhip effect’ has made our existing supply chains that we rely on ineffective. Additionally, as in any crisis, the cost and speed of procuring PPE take precedence over environmental and human health impacts.

There was initial concern that the necessary priorities placed within society during Covid-19 would impede and even reverse the sustainable, green economies and movements. Though the pandemic is an all-encompassing tragedy that impacts every part of society, health and the economy; now, and particularly with a vaccine almost here, we are in a position to use Covid-19 to drive sustainable economic development.

The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for sustainable and accessible approaches to the logistics of PPE; the goal is circularity. Andrew believes that a circular bioeconomy is feasible, providing there is investment in waste collection systems. 

“Local as possible and global as necessary” – Andrew Lamb

Optimising multi-output production chains while simultaneously adopting a circular bioeconomy approach to PPE development is critical. Principally, Field Ready prioritises local manufacturing, ensuring that small scale machines and local distribution becomes economically viable. 

“When the economy is valued through a different lens… we are able to remove waste and extend the value in a materials lifecycle” – Andrew Lamb

New projects funded through the sustainable innovation fund, such as one led by James Hutton Ltd, ensure that new PPE is made from existing waste streams, is reusable and cheap, and thus accessible for all. In order to meet the conditions of economic growth within net zero targets and green deals, a more considered approach must be carried forward. PPE often contains plastic and is single use, yet not easily recyclable, hence ending up in landfill. To better understand PPE production and its challenges, a report collated in may 2020 begins to document Fab Lab Covid-19 network response. Many Fab Labs have maintained operations to fabricate and distribute PPE within local communities. On average, 13,026 PPE products are produced monthly per Fab Lab. The local resilience demonstrated could continue to fill an important manufacturing role in the future. 

Finding, transporting and delivering a globally accessible Covid-19 vaccine is a priority to tackle preventable deaths. Globally, a new approach to deliver vaccinations, and mechanisms to build cold-chain logistics assets are being developed in order to improve immunisation success. In parallel to this, recovery to a more inclusive, cleaner and healthier society is necessary to drive momentum moving forward regarding the agents and ramifications of climate change. 

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