Earth Day is a worldwide annual event celebrated on April 22nd. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970 and has now grown to include over 193 countries. According to the first Earth Day organizer Denis Hayes, Earth Day is now the “largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year.”

In recent years, we have seen more and more emphasis placed on the effects that human activity can have on our planet’s environment and ecosystems. Environmentalists point to phenomena like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to emphasize the drastic changes to waste disposal needed to curb the damage to life on planet Earth.

So, what does this have to do with Stauffer Glove & Safety and personal protective equipment? PPE is utilized in almost every industry, and in many cases the equipment utilized is single use (aka disposable). The materials that make up the PPE often are not recyclable or biodegradable. Materials like polypropylene are dumped in landfills as it is not economically feasible to recycle them. However, there are some steps that can be taken to reduce pollution and waste where the materials making up the PPE cannot be changed due to hazardous chemicals or required safety standards.

Environmentally friendly companies can modify manufacturing processes to consume less fuel or draw their power from renewable resources such as wind or solar or use recycled materials in their packaging. Distributors can shift to more local facilities to reduce transportation-related pollution caused by long distance shipping as well as maximizing the use of space in each shipment to reduce the number of containers shipped.

Stauffer Glove & Safety has taken steps to reduce our carbon footprint by offering nine locations across the country to reduce long distance shipping. These locations operate in tandem with Stauffer’s own fleet of trucks – allowing for greater controls over delivery and the optimization of container space. Additionally, Stauffer partners with environmentally conscious companies like Showa and Kimberly-Clark, both of which are making great strides in reducing the negative impact that PPE can have on the environment.

SHOWA – ECO BEST TECHNOLOGY

Nitrile gloves do not contain latex. This attribute, coupled with nitrile gloves’ durability, protection, and tactile sensitivity, make them one of the most popular disposable gloves on the market. However, the typical nitrile glove does not attract enough microbial activity to begin breaking down the polymer’s molecular structure. This leads to a biodegradation timeline of decades to hundreds of years for nitrile gloves in a landfill. If you consider the number of disposable gloves used daily in hospitals, offices, schools, warehouses, labs, etc., that adds up a lot of waste just sitting in landfills not decomposing.

To combat this issue, Showa has pioneered what they call their Eco Best Technology or EBT and added these materials to their nitrile gloves to create the first biodegradable nitrile glove. When these gloves are disposed of in a biologically active landfill, the EBT materials attract microorganisms to the gloves. These microorganisms then consume, metabolize and break them down into three natural compounds – natural soil, methane, and carbon dioxide. This also means that EBT nitrile gloves will not start to decompose on the shelf – they require a biologically active landfill for biodegradation. Furthermore, it leads to full biodegradation of the glove within five years (20% within six months).

KIMBERLY-CLARK RIGHTCYCLE PROGRAM

Kimberly-Clark has taken a different route to help their company and its customers be more sustainable consumers: RightCycle by Kimberly Clark. The RightCycle program enables those who use Kimberly-Clark products to collect items that are difficult to recycle (such as nitrile gloves or single-use apparel) and have them turned into eco-friendly consumer goods through the following process:

 

This program helps environmentally conscious companies meet their sustainability goals, divert waste away from landfills, and give used nitrile gloves and single-use PPE a new life by using them to create environmentally responsible consumer goods like flower pots, patio furniture, and plastic shelves.