Today we discuss the exciting subject of environmentally friendly disposable gloves. Ok, maybe not too exciting, but this is a short article so it shouldn’t be too painful.
First, we will discuss traditional disposal gloves and then we will get into environmentally friendly options (if they exist, ok, they do…well one does…read further for more information…)
Are disposable gloves bad for the environment?
Yes. Disposable gloves are unrecyclable and millions end up in our landfills every year. These disposable gloves can take decades to break down. Even gloves made from latex (a natural rubber) take a long time to biodegrade because other chemicals are added to the gloves.
Conclusion: Disposable gloves are bad for the environment.
Are nitrile gloves eco-friendly?
Heck no. Nitrile gloves are unrecyclable and take decades to biodegrade.
Are latex gloves eco-friendly?
My first reaction when I hear this question is no, but it’s not quite that cut and dry. Allow me to explain. Latex itself is made from natural rubber trees which are in fact biodegradable. Latex does, however, take at least 5 years to biodegrade.
You can actually compost latex gloves as long as they are not contaminated with whatever it was you were using them for.
There is also synthetic latex which is not biodegradable, so just make sure you buy the natural latex version if you are so inclined.
So, I guess the answer to this question is kinda. I know that’s a bit wishy-washy, but with such few options available for environmentally friendly disposable gloves, we’re not in a position to be too picky at this point.
Environmental impact of Nitrile Gloves
From the raw materials used to make nitrile gloves, to the disposal after use, nitrile gloves negatively impact the environment.
Here’s a quick overview of the lifecycle of nitrile gloves.
Acrylonitrile and Butadiene that are used to make nitrile gloves, are both released in the air. Acrylonitrile is also released into the water and toxic only if released at high levels.
C02 emissions are released as a result of fossil fuel use from heating/production.
As well as C02 emissions from transportation of raw materials to the manufacturing facility, there are emissions via transportation of the finished nitrile gloves to their various locations.
If gloves end up in the landfill, they take a heck of a long time to decompose- we’re talking decades here.
This is a very basic overview of the environmental impact of nitrile glove production and disposal.
Are there biodegradable gloves?
Yes, lucky enough, there is. Literally ONE brand of disposable gloves are biodegradable. Let’s explore.
SHOWA uses Eco Best Technology (EBT) that allows nitrile and other synthetic fibers within gloves to biodegrade in landfills.
- Gloves fully biodegrade in 5 years
- EBT is made of organic material that attracts microbial activity in landfills
- 100% biodegradable
- When disposed of in landfills, microorganisms consume, metabolize and break down EBT materials into three natural compounds— organic soil, methane, and carbon dioxide. This creates fertilizer, leaving zero waste behind
- High performance of protection
- Zero natural rubber latex proteins
Here’s an infographic for those that prefer pictures and words:
While you probably won’t run out to grab the only biodegradable nitrile gloves for your at-home use, hopefully, this article brings to light the environmental issues associated with disposable gloves.
One can only hope that in the future more environmentally friendly disposable gloves will be available at big box stores for the general public to use.
Until then, consider going glove-free at home or reusing your disposable gloves over and over and over again to get as much out of them as possible, before they hit the landfill.
Do you use disposable gloves at home? If so, what kind do you use? Let me know in the comments below.
Cheers, and have an awesome day.