When we launch a new programme with a brand we often get asked what happens with the waste stream we collect, so this month we thought it would be good to shine a spotlight on one of our newest recycling programmes in the UK. Last month TerraCycle® and Spontex® launched a new scheme to recycle all brands of household disposable gloves in the UK. The gloves will be collected by programme participants across the UK and sent to TerraCycle®. But what happens next? Let’s find out…
Why do we use disposable gloves?
Consumers wear disposable gloves to protect their hands, sometimes their use is driven by the need to protect sensitive skin but typically hygiene is the key factor and desire, they are used as a barrier to avoid contact with unpleasant substances when carrying out unpleasant tasks! Disposable gloves are most often used for one off dirty jobs like cleaning up after pets, preparing smelly food such as fish or onions, painting, beauty regimes such as dying hair or applying fake tan as well as other general cleaning tasks.
An innovative recycling process
The gloves that are accepted in the programme are made from 4 different materials – vinyl, latex, nitrile and cast polyethylene – so the TerraCycle Research and Development team had to first find a way to separate and recycle these materials that has not previously been patented. The team headed up by Ernie Simpson in the US, then developed an innovative and unique recycling technique for the gloves.
The gloves will be sterilized using a specific process. Once sterilized, the gloves go through a process called cryomilling in which they are cooled or chilled and then ground down into a fine powder. This powder can be used to make a variety of different products such as flooring tiles, athletics fields and tracks, padding etc.
For this recycling technique we need a large amount of waste; that’s why the gloves will first be checked into our warehouse in Lancashire where they are aggregated and bailed with similar materials. They will be stored here until we’ve collected a sizable quantity, at which point we will send them off to be recycled at one of our partner recycling facilities in the UK or in Europe.
Why do we recycle gloves?
The most common misconception about why items like disposable gloves aren’t accepted by council recycling schemes is because the recycling process is particularly difficult or technical. However, whilst it can be tricky to sort and separate different materials, in reality it all comes down to economics. This means that the main obstacle preventing these items being recycled regularly is that the value of the end material is less than the cost it takes to collect and process them. In simple terms – it just doesn’t make economic sense. We believe that the whole idea of ‘waste’ should be eliminated, and materials that would normally be disposed of are in fact viewed as a precious resource.
Moreover, by using recycled material to make new products, we are reducing the need to extract virgin materials. In this way we are working towards a more circular economy in which waste is given a second life rather than being sent to landfill or incinerated.
A valuable partnership
This is why TerraCycle® partners with environmentally-conscious brands like Spontex®, who are willing to cover the costs of this recycling in order to do their bit for the environment. Spontex® have understood that we need to change the way we think about single use disposable gloves, and you can help divert this type of waste from incineration and landfill by joining the The Spontex® Disposable Gloves Recycling Scheme today: https://www.terracycle.co.uk/en-GB/brigades/spontex.
To discover more about our other free recycling programmes, visit the TerraCycle website!