A new system aims to remanufacture PPE equipment on site, saving on waste, transportation and materials
Spotted: Each year, single-use PPE contributes around 2.6 million metric tonnes of non-biodegradable waste to landfills in the US alone, with single-use gloves making up 44 per cent of the waste. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made this worse, but a group of students from Stanford University and Sweden’s Blenkinge Institute of Technology have come up with a possible solution – recyclable, single-use gloves.
The project, called Reglove, consists of a glove made from polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), a water-soluble polymer, that can easily be dissolved, sterilised and then remoulded into a new pair of gloves. This is accomplished using a single machine that shreds the gloves, rinses the material, dissolves the PVA, and then filters, sterilises and remoulds the liquid PVA to create a fresh “new” pair.
The system devised by the team will enable the onsite remanufacturing of contaminated gloves, allowing hospitals and laboratories to recycle their old ones onsite. The result is not only a sustainable solution to the problem of PPE disposal but could also free medical facilities from a reliance on external PPE manufacturing facilities.
The project won an International Top 20 award at this years’ Dyson Awards, and the team hopes that this type of in-house recycling system could eventually be placed in “every industry that heavily relies on PPE”. According to the team’s Dyson entry, “Remanufacturing gloves is simply the first step in the journey to being able to recycle all disposable protective gear. We hope to continue with this solution and share it with the world.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen a huge number of ingenious innovations in PPE manufacturing. These have included a face shield made from plastic rubbish and a virus-repelling coating for PPE. However, Reglove is the first that has addressed the problem of both waste disposal and the recycling of PPE. However, as the PPE waste mountain continues to grow, it will probably not be the last.
Written By: Lisa Magloff