Being environmentally safe in the glove industry

It seems all industrial organizations are working to lessen their impact on the environment. What can the industrial glove manufacturing community do to make the environment cleaner, greener and safer in the United States?

Responding is Gil LeVerne Jr., marketing communications expert, Showa Best Glove, Menlo, GA.

Dr. Seuss was ahead of his time with his 1971 book “The Lorax.” The book’s environmental message has been described as “a statement on conservation and corporate responsibility,” and that same philosophy should guide industrial glove manufacturing practices.

We recommend glove manufacturers take a two-pronged approach to environmentalism:

  • Incorporate green research and innovation into all products.
  • Improve green manufacturing practices.

Here are some specific ways glove manufacturers can make the environment cleaner, greener and safer in the United States.

Green research and development:

  • Develop green products. With millions of industrial gloves going into landfills each year, the recent introduction of the first biodegradable disposable nitrile glove is encouraging in the development of green products. What is notable about this patent-pending innovation is that you have a glove polymer – nitrile – that was not considered to be biodegradable, and it has been engineered into a biodegradable product that breaks down only when placed in a landfill.
  • Use recycled content in the product. Due to their large volumes, used automobile tires are among the largest and most problematic sources of waste at landfills. Innovative manufacturers are engineering gloves that contain ground-up tires in the rough textured grip, which reduces the number of tires in landfills.

Manufacturing practices:

  • Energy footprint. Glove manufacturers can reduce their energy footprint through the design of new machines and the modification of existing machines that lower energy consumption. At one U.S.-based glove manufacturing facility, this type of practice has proven to dramatically lower the amount of fuel used to power production lines.
  • Reduction of waste. The most forward-thinking glove manufacturers are beginning to use reclamation machines for knitted glove products. This improved process eliminates a huge amount of waste. At least one manufacturer has brought all of its cut-resistant products under this reclamation effort. Because of this effort, virtually all waste has been eliminated during the manufacturing of its high-performance fiber cut-resistant products.
  • Environmental discharge. Science is leading the way in “going green” manufacturing processes where glove manufacturers are now using chemistry systems that have lower environmental impact and lower toxicity. Manufacturers are working to eliminate chemicals that are considered dangerous to the environment.
  • Recyclable packaging. Follow the lead of consumer products where recyclable packaging is an important feature. Even in the consumer world, it is not a primary purchase motivator but is becoming increasingly expected. Glove manufacturers can offer packaging made from 100 percent recycled material for inner dispensers and outer cases made from 100 percent post-consumer waste.
  • Green logistics. The entire supply change can be reverse-engineered with the environment in mind. Global manufacturers are at an advantage because they can shift production to local plants and facilities. The closer the plant to the raw material or the end customer, the greater the cost savings and the less impact freight and other transportation have on the environment.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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