With an estimated 300 billion disposable gloves used in the US 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 focuses on the “reduce” 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 minimize 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 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 disposable glove waste savings calculator can help calculate a company's sustainability and environmental impact savings when they switch from vinyl to using thinner yet stronger, better quality and cost-effective glove choices.
Reuse: Post-Consumer Items
Included in Eagle Protect's R&D, 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 glove manufacturing require a melting point of 284°C, an unsustainable & costly temperature to maintain.
Nitrile disposable glove recycling is currently conducted by TerraCycle. This works by purchasing and collecting gloves in a Zero Waste Box, which is then shipped to New Jersey for recycling. The waste is separated into various forms of plastic and then undergoes extrusion and pelletization to be molded into new recycled plastic products.
The additional collection bin and shipping are estimated to be approximately double the cost of gloves, making it less feasible for some companies.
Eagle STRETCHPoly and TPE Embossed gloves, made from synthetic durable stretch polyethylene, can also be recycled. This is can be done by Revolution Bag who follow a closed-loop recycling process, turning recycled products into trash bags which are then purchased back, and via your local municipality, depending on their recycling capabilities.
Compostable gloves are made from Polylactic acid (PLA), a plastic substitute made from fermented plant starch. These gloves must be disposed of in commercial composting facilities to be of environmental benefit, and currently, only a few hundred industrial-grade composting facilities can be found across the US. Compostable gloves do not have any FDA compliance testing, therefore are not a recommended food-safe option or for use with chemicals.
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 plasticizers. 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 chose to discontinue sales of vinyl disposable gloves.