For years, laboratory and cleanroom environments have been disposing of garments such as boot covers, cleanroom gloves, coveralls, gloves, masks and hairnets. With tons of these products going into landfill every year, recycling programs are being introduced through a partnership between Kimberly-Clark and Terracycle. Together, they have created a recycling program that is being activated around the world with the goal of diverting the tons of waste generated by labs and cleanrooms, keeping them from contaminating and overloading the environment and instead converting them into usable products. The program is part of Kimberly-Clark’s Exceptional Workplaces initiative, which is designed to create safer, exceptional work environments.
The partnership between the two companies joins forces between an organization that recycles and one that specializes in contamination control. Where these items were previously kept separate and disposed of as cleanroom waste, they are now being packaged in special containment boxes. In just a few months time over 7,000 pounds of used garments have been collected. The goal of the program is to have collected at least 350,000 pounds over the next several months, and as more collection locations are signing on it appears that the program is on target to achieve their goal.
TerraCycle is able to take the waste products and recycle them into bulk plastics as well as consumer products, and the program includes an innovative tracking system that enables participating sites to receive metrics as to exactly how much they have contributed to the effort and what the effect has been on their location’s carbon footprint. The program has made employees aware of the large impact that disposable gloves have had on the environment, and with cleanroom gloves making up the majority of each facilities landfill placements, the more feedback and information that comes back, the more compliant and enthusiastic employees have been about properly placing the gloves into the special boxes.