When you buy gloves, you tend to focus on the job. But what about what happens to your gloves after they leave the box and complete their use?
The truth is, how your gloves are disposed makes a huge difference in the sustainability of your purchased supplies, materials, and your overall facility.
Whether you’re a lab, a health care organization, a major company, an industrial plant, or anything in between, here’s a look at how to properly dispose of nitrile gloves to take care of the environment.
The Basics of the Recycling Process
In order to understand the recycling process for nitrile gloves, it helps to understand the recycling process overall. It consists of a few basic steps.
The first step is collecting recyclable material and putting it in the right place for a recycling program to pick it up. After collecting materials, a recycling facility sorts, cleans, and processes recycled products into materials that can be bought and sold for consumer products just like other materials.
The next step is using those recycled materials for manufacturing. Several common household products are now made using recycled materials, such as drink containers, laundry detergent bottles, and steel cans. Recycling may also generate materials for use paving roads.
The last step of the loop is purchasing products made by recycling disposed products. These fall into three categories:
- Recycled content product
- Post-consumer content
- Recyclable product
Anything from paper towels to cereal boxes to carpeting can now be made using items sent to a recycling program instead of the trash.
Why You Need to Recycle Used Gloves
Unfortunately, the way we now live generates a great deal of waste--especially in labs, the medical field, and sanitation work, where disposable PPE is the norm and a necessary safety standard.
On average, high-income countries generate 0.5 kg of medical waste per hospital bed per day, while low-income countries generate 0.2 kg of waste per bed per day. 85% of this waste is general non-hazardous waste, while the remaining 15% is considered hazardous, toxic, or radioactive. However, in low-income countries, medical waste often isn’t separated into hazardous and non-hazardous, greatly increasing the amount of hazardous waste and unnecessary trash piling up in landfills.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a sharp uptick in medical waste across the world. In Wuhan, where the pandemic first began, the daily output of medical waste reached 240 metric tons, the size of an adult blue whale. In the U.S., the environment is changing rapidly--including a rapid uptick in medical waste.
And with increasing attention on business sustainability and pressure to do your part to fight the climate crisis,
Are Nitrile Gloves Recyclable?
You know your company needs to live up to your sustainability promises. But first, you have to know what you can recycle.
The good news is nitrile gloves are recyclable materials--and you should always recycle them if you can, since nitrile is less biodegradable than latex.
When Nitrile Should Go to Landfills
That said, while nitrile itself is a recyclable material, there is one specific case when nitrile should go to landfills instead of a recycling facility: when it’s hazardous waste.
Hazardous waste is a waste subset with certain properties that make it dangerous or capable of having a harmful effect on human health or the environment. In the case of a nitrile glove, for example, we’re often talking about biohazards or chemicals.
Basically, if the glove has been contaminated and is no longer safe to mix with other waste, it should be properly disposed of and not mixed with non-hazardous recyclables. Otherwise, the entire batch of recyclables is considered contaminated and must be thrown away.
Your Options for Recycling Disposable Gloves
Not sure how to get your company on track with sustainability? The good news is that you have several options and resources for recycling nitrile gloves. It can be as involved or as basic as you like.
The easiest approach is a basic recycling program--which is likely something you already have.
To do this, all you have to do is start incorporating nitrile gloves into your general recycling bins. Every uncontaminated single-use nitrile glove should be placed with undifferentiated dry products.
However, if a nitrile glove qualifies as hazardous waste, it should be disposed of using the proper hazard disposal procedures. It should not be mixed with your recycling. Anything from a lab glove contaminated with chemicals to an examination glove that qualifies as a biohazard should go in the trash. Otherwise, the whole recycling batch is contaminated.
Set Up a Recycling Program Partnership
If you want a more in-depth approach (and a specialist guarantee that you’ll get all your materials properly recycled) it pays to set up a partnership.
For gloves not considered hazardous waste, there are three green disposal options that your company can work with:
- VWR Glove Recycling
- Medline Glove Recycling
- Kimberly-Clark Glove Recycling
Each one offers slightly different glove recycling options, though they all follow the same basic premise: you purchase a box or bundle of boxes, and once the box fills with gloves, you ship it to the company, which then handles processing it at waste-to-energy facilities.
Don’t Forget to Educate Your Team
Of course, one of the most essential components of your recycling program has nothing to do with a glove box or waste facility. In order for your program to work, you have to educate your staff.
Remember, even a basic recycling program may be able to handle nitrile gloves. But if your team doesn’t know how to recycle gloves correctly or what gloves should be put in the trash, recycling won’t do any good. Always take your time to teach the rules of successful recycling.
Your Partner in Sustainability and Functional PPE
We know that as a company, you need to be aware of the entire glove life cycle--not just when you use it. That’s why we’re here to provide high-quality, sustainable nitrile gloves that your team can trust. Then, when you’re done using them, our gloves can be easily recycled to reduce your environmental footprint.
Sound good? Then check out our selection of nitrile gloves today.