Can disposable biodegradable gloves go green?
Hundreds of industries have joined the "green" fight by reducing their carbon footprint, using recycled materials or reducing the waste they generate. But can the disposable glove industry dream of joining them? Even without access to many green strategies, most nitrile gloves are certainly not recyclable and rarely reusable, glove manufacturers are still making great strides. Here's how.
Key #1: Gloves
Millions of disposable gloves are thrown away in landfills every year. Initially, there seems to be no way to mitigate the environmental damage this causes.
However, it is important to know that latex gloves are at least made from natural rubber, a renewable resource that can be extracted from living trees. Other gloves can be made in part from ground tires.
Nitrile gloves, on the other hand, are more difficult to "green". But even here, innovations have emerged. Recently, a glove manufacturer designed a biodegradable disposable nitrile glove that will only decompose in landfills. Since nitrile rubber has long been considered non-biodegradable, this is a breakthrough in the production of environmentally friendly gloves.
Focus 2: The manufacturing process
Interestingly, there are many opportunities for environmentally responsible replacement in the manufacturing process of disposable gloves. Some glove manufacturers have modified their existing machines to ensure less fuel consumption. Some use electricity supplied by renewable sources such as solar or wind power, and some have even started using biomass boilers that burn nut shells or other waste products to power their machines. They may also try to make the most efficient use of the energy generated by recovering any hot air that escapes and reintroducing it into the manufacturing process through the use of heat exchange equipment.
In addition, some glove manufacturers choose to minimize the use of chemicals that are harmful to the environment. They have replaced these chemicals with chemical systems that have less impact on the environment and are less toxic to humans and animals.
Key 3: End-of-life
Despite throwing away the disposable gloves themselves, there are still materials used to secure the gloves. Some companies are "going green" in their packaging methods. Glove manufacturers can focus on making all glove boxes from recyclable materials and making them as compact as possible to reduce waste.
Water contamination can also be a byproduct of the manufacturing process. Glove manufacturers can clean the wastewater in their facilities to ensure that it is returned to the environment more cleanly than before.
Focus 4: The distribution process
Even the distribution process for disposable gloves can be made more environmentally conscious by shifting production to local facilities rather than transporting gloves over long distances. This can reduce transport-related pollution. Distributors can also maximize the space available for each shipment, thereby reducing the number of containers used in the shipping process.
Although different manufacturing companies are addressing this issue in different ways, the industry as a whole has made great strides in meeting the challenge of becoming increasingly environmentally friendly. Future developments in manufacturing technology will provide other meaningful "green" approaches for environmentally conscious glove manufacturers.