From applying fake tan to carrying out surgery, disposable gloves create an effective barrier to protect your hands. The disposable glove market in the U.S. is predicted to grow steadily over the next few years. Although this may be good news for some (companies selling them, mainly…), being a single-use item, they create significant amounts of waste which will need dealt with. In terms of their disposal, will they end up in landfill for many years or are disposable gloves recyclable?
Firstly, what are disposable gloves made from?
Disposable gloves (the one-use variety) are made from three main materials: vinyl, latex and nitrile. Each of these have different qualities and are best used in different settings. The ability to be recycled often depends on what an item is made from. However, in the case of recycling disposable gloves, what they have been used for is the main factor.
So, are disposable gloves recyclable? Sometimes…
Household-use disposable gloves
There are processes available that allow disposable gloves to be recycled – however, you generally find that the standard curbside collections do not pick-up disposable gloves. They are not an easy item to recycle, and it is not particularly cost-effective so local services steer clear. As ever, this varies from country to country and even city to city – always check with your local authority to find out their up-to-date practices.
But don’t worry, it’s not all bad news. There have been specific arrangements put in place to ensure you don’t need to put all your disposable gloves in the trash. Gloves used in household activities, such as your beauty routine or pottering round the garden, can be recycled. There are different schemes available to allow people to do this easily.
Spontex, in conjunction with Terracycle, offer a disposable glove recycling option for those in the UK. Household-worn gloves made from all the main types of disposable glove materials can be recycled in their scheme – and they don’t need to be the Spontex brand either. As long as they are the single-use, disposable variety and have not been contaminated by harsh chemicals you are good to go! It is also extremely convenient with lots of drop-off points and even free UPS pick-up available. It couldn’t be easier!
Medical-use disposable gloves
Although disposable gloves are used at home, their main use is in healthcare settings. Unfortunately, due to their exposure to various different bodily fluids, medicines and suchlike, they are never deemed suitable for recycling. There is simply too much risk for contamination. These are considered to be clinical waste and must be disposed of in accordance with local guidelines.
The bottom line
Diverting our waste from landfill is one of the simple ways we can live in a more eco-friendly way. The ability to recycle disposable gloves largely depends on how they have been used – rather than the material that they are made from. Disposable gloves used at home, in activities such as gardening, can be recycled using specialized services like the Spontex program. However, for safety, this is simply not possible with clinically-contaminated gloves.