The increased plastic waste from personal protection equipment (PPE) due to the pandemic has created a dire need for greener alternatives.
The use of disposable gloves is increasing at an alarming rate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 90 million gloves are used by health workers each month only in the USA (1), which accumulates in landfills and takes more than 100 years to break down completely.
In most cases, these piles of the garbage get washed down into the nearby water bodies, which eventually land in the ocean, causing a threat to ocean life.
As a solution, many environment-conscious manufacturers including (MEDRUX) have started producing biodegradable gloves that break down rapidly without affecting the ecosystem.
This sustainable alternative is considered safe for the water supply, soil, and overall ecosystem. Biodegradable gloves are sustainable options to save our planet!
Dive in to find out more about these newly developed biodegradable gloves.
Environmental Impact of Disposable Gloves
During the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, when most individuals were quarantined at home, nature seemed to flourish.
However, as people started leaving their homes, it became a must to use personal protection equipment to remain safe.
This resulted in tons of plastic disposal that caused a great deal of damage to Mother Earth.
But where does this accumulated plastic waste end up?
With tons of disposable gloves being used each year, it has become a major environmental concern due to the harmful materials.
The discarded coronavirus gloves are posing a threat to the water life.
These bright-colored plastic wastes get washed down into the ocean and are often mistaken as food by marine mammals, turtles, and seabirds.
Getting caught up in between these wastes puts their life of getting severely injured and at times even facing death.
The Need For Biodegradable Gloves
The truth is, all gloves are biodegradable!
Just that it takes hundreds of years to break down and decompose.
As a solution to the present piling of plastic wastes, many have suggested using additives to break down the plastic into carbon dioxide, water vapor, and natural elements with the help of microorganisms like fungi and bacteria.
Though the intention is upright and ethical, there are lots of limitations to this method.
When biodegradable plastic products get piled up in landfills, they break down without oxygen to release methane gas.
This greenhouse gas is not considered safe for the environment.
Though certain landfills have the equipment to collect the methane gas and generate fuel and electricity, the amount is insignificant and not always practical.
Also, studies suggest that methane is one of the factors that cause global warming and has a greater negative effect than CO2 (2).
Hence it’s advisable to opt for eco-friendly disposable gloves that are harmless in the long run.
As the next best alternative to curb this alarming situation, manufacturers across the globe are going green by rushing to produce mass amounts of biodegradable gloves to meet the increasing demands.
This is not only applicable for disposable gloves but for all the other PPE products.
Are Disposable Gloves Bad?
Single-use disposable gloves are simple and inexpensive and practically worn by most individuals all across the globe.
As regulated by the government, it helps protect the user from cross-contamination while handling consumer items.
Assuming the number of people wearing and discarding disposable gloves in various facilities, the amount of plastic wastage can be extremely alarming.
People toss the used gloves into the garbage that can actually take years to decompose in most business sectors.
Irrespective of which industry you are working in, disposable safety gloves are used in most sectors. As gloves keep your hands safe from harmful chemicals, potentially hazardous infections, and sharp objects, it helps the users to work efficiently. In most cases, once the job is done, it gets discarded into the trash.
Can Disposable gloves alter the ecosystem?
To begin with, disposable gloves are made using materials like polyvinyl chloride and nitrile butadiene rubber, NBR, Buna-N, and acrylonitrile-butadiene rubber, which is a synthetic rubber derived from acrylonitrile and butadiene.
Though it’s cheap and easier to produce, these materials pose a huge risk to the ecosystem once discarded.
Additionally, these materials don’t break down easily and end up causing a choking hazard to animals that happen to mistake it for food.
Even the little degradation that takes place can have a drastic effect on the environment.
The chemical content released causes an imbalance in the water and soil, resulting in the destruction of microorganisms and the larger animal and plant life that need natural ingredients to thrive.
Are Biodegradable Gloves The Solution?
Compostable and eco-friendly biodegradable gloves are made using renewable and plant-based resources.
This newly introduced safety product is unique and made using Eco Best Technology (EBT).
This organic EBT additive is included during the production process, which enhances the decomposition time of the gloves when they end up in the landfill.
It does not take more than 10 years to decompose as compared with the estimated hundred years it takes for the regular nitrile disposable gloves.
The gloves are designed to start decomposing once they are discarded and enter the landfill site using this technology.
The microorganisms present in the soil feed on the EBT materials, metabolize them and break them down to carbon dioxide, methane, and organic soil (3).
What Are Eco-Friendly Biodegradable Gloves Made From?
The basic component of disposable, biodegradable gloves is corn resin which is a renewable and natural material.
This non-toxic material is obtained from corn starch. Corn being an annual crop, is sure to grow and yield its produce throughout the year.
Furthermore, it’s a cheaper and safe alternative when compared with other harmful materials.
Disposable gloves made using the natural resin obtained from corn starch are sustainable to the ecosystem and biodegradable.
Uses Of Biodegradable Gloves
Environment-friendly Biodegradable disposable gloves are used for multiple purposes across various industries.
When it comes to the foodservice sector, these gloves can be used for cooking, cutting, serving, and food preparation.
As many restaurants and food chains are working towards the goal of reducing plastic wastage, many are switching from nitrile and disposable vinyl gloves to biodegradable disposable gloves or Natural rubber Latex gloves.
This ‘go green’ environmental initiative is also visible in the sanitation and cleaning industry.
Biodegradable gloves are commonly used for cleaning, painting, and other low-risk jobs.
However, it’s not advisable to use biodegradable gloves while working with harmful chemicals, acids, oils, and solvents.
Incredible Features Of Biodegradable Gloves
- Eco Best Technology (EBT) consists of organic materials that attract and increase microbial activity in landfills.
- Capable of biodegrading 10 times faster than regular nitrile or disposable latex gloves in an anaerobic environment.
- Fully biodegradable.
- Available in powder-free options and the medical-grade ones have an AQL of 1.5
- The biodegradation of the gloves does not take place under normal storage conditions. It only biodegrades through microbial activities in the landfill.
- Carefully designed with an aim to provide extreme barrier protection to both the user and the environment.
- Developed with the accelerator-free formulation to reduce the risk of allergic responses.
- When the EBT materials are completely decomposed with the help of microorganisms, it releases natural compounds such as carbon dioxide, organic soil, and methane into the environment. This serves as a fertilizer, resulting in zero waste emission.
- It helps in enhancing the carbon footprint at an affordable rate.
- Biodegradable Gloves get completely decomposed and biodegraded within 5 years.
- Each of the biodegradable gloves is quality tested using the international standards of ASTM D5511.
Quality Testing of Biodegradable Gloves
With many organizations looking for ways to make their gloves biodegradable and reduce environmental wastage, manufacturers have come up with numerous biodegradable gloves to meet the increasing demand.
The polymers found in these gloves need to be scientifically tested to prove they are biodegradable.
ASTM Testing Standards
To ensure the gloves undergo the biodegradation process without any issue, it is essential to look out for official test results that support these claims. When it comes to biodegradability quality testing, you will come across two international test methods that are used by the American Society of Testing and Measurements (ASTM).
- ASTM D5511
- ASTM D5526
Independent accredited laboratories do both these testing methods in the US to measure the percentage of biodegradation present in a glove. The main aim of these tests is to prove the biodegradation capacity of the gloves.
- ASTM D5511
This testing method determines the biodegradation capacity of the plastic materials in a laboratory. Here, the plastic material in the gloves is exposed to a number of processes where microbes consume and break down the biodegradable material in an anaerobic environment. This method is mainly done only on household waste materials.
The aim of this test is to produce a certain amount of carbon from the glove material that needs to be converted to carbon in the gaseous state under optimal lab conditions. Based on the short-term biodegradation score, it is assumed that the glove material will surely degrade in the long run.
The downside to this method is that this short-term testing method is usually performed under optimal conditions, which is not the same as a real-life situation. That is why in most cases, it is essential to perform the ASTM D5526 testing procedure as well.
- ASTM D5526
This testing yields a realistic biodegradability performance result as it replicates the typical conditions present in a landfill. Among the two ASTM tests, this method is more rigorous than the previous one. This method evaluates the biodegradation process that takes place under imperfect and ideal environmental conditions. It is uniquely designed to create a realistic landfill environment over a 3-to-6-month period, where the landfill environmental condition is fully replicated.
This testing method also considers the simulated environmental conditions such as high pressure, low moisture, limited oxygen, low heat, and no light. The end result is similar to the real-life environment and proves to be more effective in proving the biodegradability of the gloves.
Are Latex Gloves Biodegradable?
Latex gloves are made using natural rubber obtained from the Hevea Brasiliensis tree and are known to biodegrade at a faster rate than the other glove types.
Most individuals use latex gloves to avoid potentially hazardous or unwanted materials from coming into contact with the skin. These gloves usually carry a huge amount of dirt, microbes, and harmful substances. Hence, it is mostly discarded and does not reach the recycling center.
The best-preferred option for latex gloves is to toss them into the trash can after use. These used gloves will end up getting accumulated in the landfills.
Latex gloves are biodegradable and are also beneficial for the environment.
As latex gloves are made from the sap of rubber trees, these natural sources are mostly biodegradable.
So, it is safe to put disposable latex gloves in the trash bin. To make the breakdown process faster and retain better results, you can also shred them or cut them into pieces to decompose quickly.
Thanks to the recent global environmental concern, manufacturers are rushing to produce biodegradable latex gloves To meet the increasing demands of the consumers.
With an aim to stay safe during the ongoing pandemic, using personal protection equipment like disposable gloves is in the minds of everyone.
Needless to say, the increased use of safety gloves can have a ripple effect on our environment.
Though it is good to practice social distancing and use the right form of safety equipment, it is essential to dispose of it in the right manner.
While some brands of gloves can be recycled, most of them end up as garbage and get tossed into landfills.
This is when biodegradable gloves come up as an eco-friendly safety solution to save the earth.
By using these high-quality, environmentally friendly disposable gloves, the amount of plastic waste can be reduced greatly.