Every month, several billion disposable plastic gloves are thrown away, and the waste has increased as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Some of this waste ends up in the oceans, where it contributes to ocean pollution and negatively affects the environment.
A group of engineering students from Blekinge Institute of Technology now hopes to put an end to this with a new invention: recyclable protective gloves. The Swedish students have advanced in the prestigious James Dyson Award competition for their project ReGlove, a system that produces a recyclable single-use protective glove. It works like a regular nitrile glove and is both durable and malleable.
The gloves are made out of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), a water-soluble polymer that can easily be dissolved, sterilized, and remolded into new gloves. Its water-soluble nature proves to be beneficial as liquids can be more easily filtered and sterilized. The gloves can be easily cleaned, sterilized, and remanufactured into a new, fresh pair of gloves after use in contaminated environments due to the unique properties of the glove material.
Dissolving the gloves in water before cleaning and sterilizing them enables efficient recycling, as materials in liquid form are easier to sterilize by autoclaving. This results in a more sustainable solution that will additionally offer independence from external PPE manufacturing facilities.
The ReGlove system is one of the top 20 finalists competing for the prize money in the international award in the James Dyson Award. This system is currently a proof of concept. The ReGlove team now plans to optimize its system so that it can manufacture the gloves with higher efficiency and automate the sterilization process.
There is currently no information about when we could see a commercial version of their machine. The winner of the international James Dyson Award will be announced in November.