Life sciences company Cell Signaling Technology (CST), Roswell, Georgia, uses about 200,000 pairs of gloves each year. But those used gloves no longer go into a landfill. CST diverts it through a program that has enabled the company to recycle more than 4,400 pounds of gloves, which are then turned into flower pots, lawn furniture and other products.
RightCycle by Kimberly-Clark Professional, the first large-scale recycling program for nonhazardous lab, cleanroom and industrial waste, has helped the company accomplish this. CST began participating in the program in 2014.
"Reducing our environmental footprint has long been a core company value," says Sustainability Coordinator Elias Witman. "So finding a way to reduce the volume of glove waste was an important goal for us."
Instead of being discarded, used lab gloves are sent to domestic recyclers to be turned into raw materials that are used to make a wide array of products.
Participating in The RightCycle Program is part of the everyday routine for CST employees. General use labs have highly visible recycling boxes with signage explaining how the gloves recycling program works. "It is explained in new employee training, and it's become second nature – like throwing a plastic bottle in a recycling bin," Witman says.
The RightCycle Program has diverted more than 400 tons of waste from landfills since its launch in 2011. It removes gloves, masks, garments, shoe covers and other apparel accessories from the waste stream and turns them into plastic pellets. These are then used to create eco-responsible consumer products and durable goods, such as shelving, totes and storage bins.
"We created The RightCycle Program because we recognized that our pharmaceutical and university customers wanted to reduce landfill waste, and single-use gloves made up a significant portion of that waste," says Randy Kates, director of the Kimberly-Clark Professional Global Scientific Business. "So we developed a recycling solution that helps them achieve their sustainability goals, while positively engaging their employees in the process."
The RightCycle Program has helped CST reduce the costs of trash removal and move closer toward its goal of zero waste to landfill.
"We're glad to have made an impact on our waste profile and to have the lab gloves repurposed for safe, practical products," Witman adds. "The RightCycle Program is highly visible and practical. People see it and want to participate. Programs like this can help shape a culture of sustainability in the lab and yield positive impacts for the planet."
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