Northern Michigan University diverted 287 pounds of glove waste from landfills during the fall semester, further demonstrating its commitments to sustainability and social responsibility. The NMU Safety Department began participating in the RightCycle personal protection equipment recycling program because of the anticipated increased reliance on single-use gloves as a COVID-19 precaution this academic year.
The RightCycle program is sponsored by Kimberly-Clark. It collects previously hard-to-recycle items such as protective clothing, safety glasses and nitrile gloves and turns them into new consumer products.
“With the additional use of gloves across campus, we wanted to make a positive impact in some way and this was the perfect program. The first semester went great, with 287 pounds of gloves collected. I estimate we had 350 pounds the spring semester, as we distributed more collection bins.”
“We purchased 100 RightCycle collection bins to distribute across campus, starting with ‘high-use’ labs we identified in Chemistry, Biology and Nursing,” said Kim Hegmegee ’93 BS, occupational and environmental health specialist in NMU’s Safety Department. “We have also used them for COVID-19 mass testing events in the Northern Center and placed them in dining and custodial areas.
NMU departments typically use 175,000 gloves annually. In response to COVID-19, NMU increased its order to 250,000 gloves.
Hegmegee said the NMU Safety Department collects the used gloves and stores them in Gaylord pallet boxes. When the boxes are full, they are shipped to a Kimberly-Clark recycling partner in Millwood, W.V., where they are processed into plastic pellets and molded into patio furniture. Other products made from PPE include flower pots and plastic shelving.