With over an estimated 300 million disposable gloves used in New Zealand each year across various industries, we are often asked by companies for the best solution to reduce their environmental impact of glove use.
This can be influenced in several ways. Of the “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” philosophy, Eagle Protect focuses on the “reduce” aspect and is making significant gains for our customers.
REDUCE: THE EFFECTIVE SOLUTION
Eagle is committed to responsible environmental sourcing, which ensures the environmental impacts of glove production are assessed. We continually work to find solutions to minimise the negative impact of our products on the planet.
By supplying new technology manufactured gloves, of superior quality with improved durability, we can reduce our customers’ usage by up to 30%. New technology gloves are also are thinner yet stronger, and provide significant waste savings in terms of glove weight waste and associated packaging.
With increasing consumer demand for better transparency, companies can easily reduce their own environmental impact by considering their glove type, weight and most importantly, quality; instantly reducing their overall environmental footprint.
Our own disposable glove Waste Savings Calculator can help calculate businesses sustainability and environmental impact savings through thinner yet stronger better quality and cost effective glove choices.
REUSE: POST-CONSUMER ITEMS
Included in Eagle Protect’s’ Research & Development, we worked with one of New Zealand’s largest infrastructure construction companies to research the recycling potential of Eagle nitrile disposable gloves, for reuse as a bitumen additive for some of their road surface products.
Glove samples were shredded and added to a routine production grade bitumen sample. However, there was a lack of softening or dissolving of the material to blend effectively with the bitumen mixture, even after extreme temperatures over prolonged periods of time. Further research indicated the physical properties of nitrile polymers used in the glove manufacturing require a melting point of 284°C, an unsustainable & costly temperature to maintain.
We are currently working with other businesses to look at other avenues to explore.
At present in New Zealand, latex, nitrile & vinyl disposable gloves are not recyclable or reusable due to most glove applications resulting in hazardous contamination, the most appropriate place for these at present is unfortunately landfill.
New Zealand’s size means that we don’t have large recycling facilities that can take bio-hazardous waste, sterilise it and put it back into the recycling process easily. Current recycling facilities are operated at a regional/council level and cannot take the materials we use.
As there aren’t facilities to manage glove recycling in New Zealand, TerraCycle NZ have alternative programs for other plastic streams. Due to the vast economic structure of the United States, TerraCycle US are able to set up a Glove Zero Waste Program which can recycle Pharmaceutical & Laboratory disposable gloves into pelletization to be moulded into new recycled plastic products. The additional collection bin and shipping is estimated to approximately double the cost of gloves, making it less feasible for some companies.
Latex gloves are made from natural rubber using a tree tapping process from the Hevea Brasiliensis tree, and are understood to biodegrade at a faster rate than other glove types. Latex gloves are not used in food handling due to potential consumer and glove user allergies.
Nitrile gloves are composed of non-biodegradable raw materials. Recently there has been some development in creating a ‘biodegradable’ nitrile glove that breaks down. However, this only occurs when placed in biologically-active landfills with microbial activity. At present the degradation of this biodegradable glove is only slightly faster than normal gloves, and their increased cost compared to standard gloves must be factored into budgets.
Vinyl gloves are non-biodegradable and made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and plasticisers. The human health impacts of PVC across its lifecycle, including disposal and occupational exposure, find PVC leads to the release of dangerous quantities of dioxin and other carcinogens, putting PVC consistently among the worst materials for human health impacts. This is one of several reasons Eagle Protect choose to discontinue sales of vinyl disposable gloves.
Polyethylene gloves are made from a polymer that is synthesised from ethylene and a thermoplastic that is formed into various shapes as it cools from a liquid state to a solid state. Like vinyl gloves these are non-biodegradable but do have the potential to be recycled in New Zealand.