Why Disposable Gloves Need To Be Eco-friendly
Disposable gloves are a commonly used personal protective equipment (PPE) in various industries, including healthcare, food service, and cleaning. These gloves are designed for single use and then disposed of, which can result in significant waste if they are not made from sustainable materials or made with end-of-life disposal in mind. In this article, we will delve into the environmental and health implications of disposable gloves and discuss the importance of choosing eco-friendly alternatives.
The Environmental Impact of Disposable Gloves
One of the primary environmental concerns with disposable gloves is the volume of waste generated. U.S. hospitals produce more than 5.9 million tons of medical waste each year, with gloves making up a significant portion of this waste. This waste often ends up in landfills, where it can take hundreds of years to break down. In addition to the volume of waste, the production of disposable gloves also has an environmental impact.
The Threat of Synthetic Glove Materials
Many disposable gloves are made from synthetic materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is a non-renewable resource and is not biodegradable. The production of PVC also releases harmful chemicals into the air, including dioxins and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause cancer and other serious health problems, while VOCs contribute to air pollution and contribute to climate change through their greenhouse gas effects.
In addition to the environmental concerns, disposable gloves can also have negative impacts on human health. Many synthetic gloves contain chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin and cause irritation or allergic reactions. These chemicals can also leach into the environment when the gloves are disposed of, potentially contaminating soil, water, and animal life.
Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Traditional Disposable Gloves
To address these issues, there are several eco-friendly alternatives to traditional disposable gloves that are worth considering.
Natural Rubber Gloves
Natural rubber, also commonly referred to as latex gloves, are biodegradable and do not contain the harmful chemicals found in synthetic materials. However, one of the greatest pitfalls of latex gloves is their potential to cause great health risks to those who may have latex allergies. Those with latex allergies could have symptoms ranging from itchy skin and hives to even anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening condition that can cause throat swelling and severe difficulty breathing. Because of these potential risks, many businesses opt to avoid natural latex altogether to mitigate potential harm to workers or patrons.
Another eco-friendly alternative is gloves made from plant-based materials. Gloves made from materials such as cornstarch or potato starch can be fully biodegradable and do not have the same environmental impact as synthetic materials.
Compostable gloves are typically gloves made from plant-based materials, but may be enhanced with an organic additive that would allow it be compostable in a compost environment. Often times this would accelerate the compostability of the compostability of the material allowing it to break down within as short as 90 days. The result is water, carbon dioxide, and biomass, which can then be returned to the earth as rich nutrients.
Equally so, biodegradable gloves is another eco-friendly alternative to traditional synthetic gloves and has similar great benefits of returning to the earth, but through natural biodegradation. Biodegradable gloves are typically enhanced with a working natural additive that’s meant to help attract microorganisms to feed on the glove material accelerating the biodegradation of the gloves. In many cases, this acceleration can mean biodegradation within 1 to 5 years versus hundreds of years for some synthetic materials out there. The other potential benefit of biodegradable gloves is that the biogas that is captured during biodegradation process can be converted into a great sustainable source of energy to help power cars, homes, and much more.
The last alternative many would consider is to switch to reusable gloves, which can be washed and used multiple times before needing to be replaced. While these gloves may have a higher upfront cost, they can save money in the long run and reduce the amount of waste produced. However, the likelihood of this working out for many homes and businesses is low as this would pose a great concern for contamination if the gloves are not properly cleaned, sanitized, and/or sterilized. Thus, making it less attractive and practical for solution in the long run.
It is important for individuals and companies to carefully consider the environmental and health impacts of the disposable gloves they use. By choosing eco-friendly alternatives, we can reduce waste, protect the environment, and ensure that our actions do not contribute to negative health outcomes. There are many options available, and it is up to each of us to make a conscious effort to choose sustainable products that are better for the planet and for our own health.
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