Prevention and protection go hand-in-hand, especially when you are associated with manufacturing, healthcare, science, research, or the relevant sector.
The only difference lies in the method to keep yourself safe from chemical spillage, dirt, and germs. Such potentially exposed body parts are our hands that are into multiple activities- operating machines, doing an operation, etc.
So, disposable gloves came into existence to meet the need for their protection. The best part is today’s innovation made it possible to produce eco-friendly gloves- thanks to latex, the new material for gloves.
Though, there is a lot of confusion as to whether latex gloves are recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable.
Even though organic and natural latex are biodegradable, it would be too early to claim the same for latex products. There is much more to this research that we will be going to discuss in the following content:
What is Latex and Why is it Used for Gloves?
Contrary to the common belief, latex is not plastic. It is made with natural rubber found in the rubber tree. Since it doesn’t contain any oil, like plastic, latex doesn’t need to be recycled. It is a natural renewable resource that can never run out and, therefore, can be used as much as required.
Rest assured, latex is biodegradable and can never bring any harm to nature. Its natural origin makes it a better choice over PVC gloves because they do not decompose naturally and cause severe damage to the surroundings.
Types of Latex
Practically, there are 3 major types of latex that you should know and make informed decisions accordingly (Ruiz, 2017):
- Natural Latex: Made with hevea brasiliensis trees or rubber trees, this natural form has been used for centuries. Multiple saps of rubber trees are converted into liquid form so that they can combine with different chemicals like zinc oxide and ammonia to form natural latex.
- Organic Latex: As the name suggests, it is extracted from a natural source and contains no chemicals. It is widely used in organic mattresses for babies, toddlers or adults, and many other sustainable products. You can easily identify it with its GOLS certification.
- Synthetic Latex: It’s obvious that synthetic latex is manufactured in factories with the help of petroleum-based chemicals, which is why it is the biggest harm to the environment.
Time Period for Natural Latex to Biodegrade
No doubt, organic latex can biodegrade quickly, i.e. it takes up to 4 years to decompose.
Natural latex takes some time, depending on its quality, condition, and other chemicals. However, they need 100 years max to complete the process.
All in all, one thing is clear- every type of latex has its own time period for biodegradation and may need some more time in the landfill than in the backyard compost pile.
Is it Possible to Recycle Latex Gloves?
For every nature lover, it’s important to figure out which product or action can damage the overall atmosphere. If you are one of those and using latex gloves in your respective field, then you deserve appreciation because these gloves can take care of the environment well.
Unlike other types of gloves, latex gloves are eco-friendly and promise to cause no harm to anyone’s well-being.
But have you ever thought about what would happen after you dispose of them? Even though they are biodegradable, be certain that they are not recyclable!
You cannot reuse them- they are intended for one-time use. They contain contaminants, particularly pathogens and dirt, that could cause multiple problems for everything in their surroundings, whether you or nature (UNIGLOVES, 2018).
Is it Possible to Compost Old Latex Gloves?
As mentioned above, latex gloves are made with natural materials; it’s easy to add to the compost heap. Over time, they will become amazing fertilizers.
Though, be sure not to put used latex gloves into the compost heap. The disease may potentially grow into the heap. The risk is minimal, but are you ready to take it? Do you want to damage your beloved Earth? Think about it.
Reasons Behind Latex Gloves’ Non-Recyclable Nature
You might be wondering if latex gloves are environmentally friendly. Why can’t they be recycled, right? Well, as we all know that recycling is intended to (Walker, 2019):
- Save resources for manufacturing new products
- Control waste production
- Reduce carbon footprint and pollution during production
You have to understand that there are many things latex gloves cannot do or restrict traditional procedures from doing. For instance, when you use latex gloves to prevent your skin from getting in contact with hazardous materials, recycling may cause those materials to return in a new form. Do you want to do that? Obviously, you don’t!
While working in the hospital, there will be bacteria and viruses on the latex gloves, while in the restaurant, there would be food particles that would give rise to bacteria after some time.
If you send these gloves to a recycling center, they have to put a lot of effort into disinfecting the gloves to ensure there would be no contaminants on the end material. Here, it is worth mentioning that the recycling equipment isn’t infested during the process.
It’s not always necessary to be creative when you already have some tried and tested methods to avoid getting into big trouble.
Even though your intentions are pure and good to sustain a good environment, trying to reuse or recycle latex gloves may not be wise.
They contain many contaminants that may become a potential reason for a bad atmosphere and deteriorating health. Therefore, instead of wasting efforts on making minimal impacts, you should invest time, resources, and efforts to recycle things with big threats like synthetic products and plastics.
- Ruiz, A. (2017). Is Latex Biodegradable, Compostable or Recyclable? Retrieved from The Roundup : https://theroundup.org/is-latex-biodegradable/
- (2018). Can disposable gloves be recycled? Retrieved from UNIGLOVES: https://help.unigloves.co.uk/en/knowledge/can-disposable-gloves-be-recycled
- Walker, J. (2019). Can You Recycle Latex Gloves? Retrieved from CAN YOU THROW IT AWAY: https://canyouthrowitaway.com/can-you-recycle-latex-gloves/