The average cleaning routine is full of single-use products. If you’re looking for ways to reduce waste–but still keep your hands clean and protected–these eco friendly alternatives to disposable gloves are just the thing.
Traditional disposable gloves are mainly manufactured in three different materials: latex, nitrile, and vinyl. While nitrile and vinyl gloves are non-biodegradable and non-recyclable due to their man made nature, what about latex?
Well, since latex is made from rubber (a biodegradable material), you’d think they’re the best sustainable cleaning gloves to buy. Sadly, it’s not that simple.
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Why Aren’t Latex Gloves Eco Friendly?
The truth is latex gloves are not completely made of just natural rubber. Most of them have synthetic materials added to them during processing to slow down biodegradation.
And while the natural rubber in these gloves does decompose in an average of 5 years, we cannot say what happens to the chemical compounds as the synthetic rubber breaks down. These, much to our dismay, most likely leach into the soil and groundwater.
What’s more, most recycling facilities do not accept latex gloves due to the risk of them having come in contact with hazardous substances. And since they are considered non-recyclable, they accumulate in landfills waiting to decompose.
Unfortunately, rain and floods often end up carrying these discarded gloves to river beds where they affect marine life. The ones not disposed of in landfills, on the other hand, are incinerated instead, which releases toxins into the atmosphere.
Disposal aside, even the production process of these gloves comes with a hefty carbon footprint of its own.
Rubber plantations have a serious impact on both the forest ecology and the water table. The wastewater from the processes involved in production is often disposed of without adequate treatment which only adds to the contamination of soil and water which affects both plant and animal life.
Finally, latex has been known to cause allergic reactions in around 4% of people worldwide. And it’s not just the synthetic version–natural rubber latex will also irritate your skin if you have a latex allergy.
Are Biodegradable Gloves Safe?
There are plenty of options out there when it comes to biodegradable gloves made from renewable resources, and we’ll get into those below. But are they safe?
Gloves for safe industrial applications need to be suitable for all types of environments, from food preparation units to health care facilities to agricultural settings, grocery stores, and museums.
To ensure this, companies need to comply with federal regulations for food contact and meet numerous other requirements, and how strictly they follow those requirements varies from brand to brand. That’s why it’s important to check product descriptions before purchasing your gloves to make sure they are suitable for the type of work you intend for them.
It should be noted that for medical use, disposable gloves made from latex and nitrile remain the first choice. The purpose of this article is to highlight sustainable and eco friendly alternatives to disposable gloves for use in the home and kitchen.
8 Sustainable Alternatives to Disposable Gloves
The most eco friendly alternative to household gloves is to simply clean by hand, especially when it comes to doing chores like washing dishes and doing the laundry.
But for those tasks that do need gloves, these eco friendly options are much better than your typical disposable brands. They include everything from natural rubber gloves, work gloves made from recycled materials, and compostable disposable gloves made from materials like corn resin.
Reusable Natural Latex Gloves
Splash Patrol Natural Latex Cleaning Gloves by Full Circle Home
Full Circle Home’s durable gloves are a great alternative to disposable gloves as they can be washed and reused an endless number of times.
They’re made of natural latex rubber and have 100% cotton cuffs to keep your arms dry while using them. The internal lining is a nice, soft blend of nylon and rayon made from plant fibers.
If You Care Latex Gloves
If You Care is a popular producer of eco friendly cleaning supplies (I like their zero waste dishwasher tablets).
Reusable and compostable, their gloves are made using 100% natural rubber and natural cotton. Use them all you want and when you’re done, cut them into small pieces and throw them into your compost.
Compostable Disposable Gloves
180-day Compostable Food Gloves by HanzOn
HanzOn is a small family-owned company committed to sustainability. Their plant-based, compostable cleaning gloves are designed for small to average sized hands and make for an excellent eco friendly alternative to latex gloves.
The only real difference is that they decompose within 180 days in a compostable environment and within 18-24 months in a landfill. They are made of modified cornstarch, making it an option to dispose of them right alongside your food scraps.
Their compostable gloves even ship in recyclable and compostable packaging! They’re a low cost option for people with latex allergies who need single-use gloves.
NetZeroGlove by Cradle & Dew
Strong, durable, stretchy, and waterproof, these gloves by Cradle & Dew deliver on every aspect that a pair of disposable gloves should!
This brand guarantees that their corn-based gloves decompose in a few months without leaving traces of microplastics.
Compostable Biodegradable Gloves by Earth’s Natural Alternative
ENA’s heavy duty food gloves are unbleached, durable, non-toxic, BPA-free, and plastic-free.
They’re made from quick-growing vegetable starch, like corn starch, that’s grown and sourced sustainably and responsibly. Even the box is fully biodegradable.
Biodegradable Disposable Powder Free Nitrile Glove by Showa
Regular nitrile gloves can take anywhere from a couple of decades to a couple of centuries to degrade fully. Showa’s revolutionary Eco Best Technology (EBT), however, makes it so that their 100% nitrile gloves degrade within 1-5 years when exposed to a biologically active environment like a landfill.
Their biodegradable disposable nitrile glove packs comes in multiple sizes and offers adequate protection and safety. In fact, it is even recommended by the manufacturer for use in a wide range of utilities like janitorial tasks, the pharmaceutical industry, landscaping, food processing, automotive, as well as for agricultural purposes.
Unlike regular nitrile which releases toxic chemicals when it degrades, EBT materials are broken down by microorganisms into only three natural compounds, organic soil, methane, and carbon dioxide!
Recycled Garden Gloves
KAYGO KYGE19L Recycled Polyester Knit Gloves
KAYGO’s sturdy and sustainable cleaning gloves are made from 25% recycled PET bottles, reducing 12g C02 per pair. They can be used for gardening, cleaning, laundry driving, or even warehousing.
WasteNot Spandex Gloves by Watson Gloves
Made from 96% recycled PET bottles and water resistant full-grain goatskin leather, these WasteNot gloves are both innovative and functional.
Watson Gloves also takes pride in converting biodegradable gloves to biofuels which can fuel homes and communities.
Terracycle Disposable Gloves Zero Waste Box
Yes, this isn’t a pair of gloves; it’s a box. But, it’s no ordinary box.
The Terracycle Disposable Gloves Zero Waste Box is a great solution for small businesses or offices that don’t have the means to properly recycle cleaning gloves.
Once you fill the box with old gloves, you can ship it back to TerraCycle and they will recycle your items into new and innovative products. Shipping is included in the cost.
TerraCycle is an ethical brand focused on shifting the global linear waste disposal system to a circular one. These glove boxes are just one of the many options they have for recycling products your local municipality won’t take.
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