Understanding the Opportunity
In today’s manufacturing landscape, companies are incentivized to focus on green initiatives. With industry leaders like General Motors leading the way with landfill-free and “zero waste to landfill” efforts, more and more industrial facilities have their eye on going green. As our society becomes more green conscious, they expect more from the brands they decide to spend their money with. Large companies are even working in green initiatives to their supplier selection process. Certifications like ISO 14001 and LEED could be the difference between winning and losing a major contract. Waste minimization has gone from the background to the forefront of industrial goal setting.
So how does an environmental manager select an initiative that helps their company inch towards sustainability while also decreasing costs to aid the bottom line? Glove and sleeve laundering programs have picked up steam dramatically over the last 10 years, fitting in well with both waste and cost reduction goals. The concept sells itself; what if I could reuse my cut resistant gloves for $1.25 instead of throwing them away and repurchasing them for $6? But if it was that easy – why doesn’t everyone do it?
Closed Loop Recycling’s experience implementing PPE recycling programs in industries like automotive, aerospace, plastics, packaging, and agriculture have taught us some key lessons in effective PPE laundering program implementation and management. See below for the rundown:
1) Get the Laundered Quality Right
There are hundreds of thousands of specific PPE types with various iterations of yarn strength, dip type, cuff construction and other factors that make that specific PPE the right tool for the job. Different laundering methods result in differing levels of laundering quality. For instance, polyurethane coating may come out great with high drying temperatures while foam nitrile coating will begin to melt and should instead be tumble dried on low. Using a qualified industrial laundering company is the best route to ensure proper quality, as they work to understand manufacturers recommended care instructions to ensure maximum longevity of equipment. While you can easily launder your work shirt at home in your washing machine, specialty equipment like Kevlar gloves and sleeves need special attention and machinery.
2) Set the Standards
An effective glove recycling program needs to have established protocol and quality standards:
- Does your glove and sleeve laundering partner utilize a metal detector to ensure no metal chips will arrive back in the PPE? Does it catch ferrous and non ferrous metals?
- At what point does a PPE item hit “end of life”? Who is responsible for identifying that and disposing of the item?
- Are you laundering all types of gloves and sleeves on site? Are you targeting both welding sleeves and cut resistant sleeves? If not, have you provided employee training on when and how to segregate?
- Dip on the front of the glove helps with grip, but generally does not aid in cut resistance. If the dip is wearing off, will you allow your employees to continue using the glove?
- If my glove has a branded sticker on the back to indicate size, will that sticker fall off in the laundering process? If so, does my cuff color indicate the size?
3) Collection & Distribution
- Walk the plant and identify the most convenient areas to place collection containers. Generally, there are two major areas to always include glove and sleeve recycling containers on site: near the exits and near the area where they get new gloves. These areas will offer the highest capture rate for employees.
- Identify your gameplan for distribution of clean material back to employees. Common ppe recycling distribution plans include:
- Distribution racks provided and stocked by your full-service PPE Laundering vendor. If you have vending machines on site, you can throttle the allowance of new pairs per employee. Once allowance is used, the employees can be trained to use laundered gloves through the remainder of the allowance cycle.
- Vending machines; your full-service PPE Laundering vendor should be able to fold the gloves and sleeves for re-distribution directly through the vending machines you already have on site.
- Tool cribs can be a convenient location to distribute clean PPE. In this scenario, employees would need to turn in their old pair to get a new laundered pair. Then the tool crib attendant can be trained to identify launderable ppe types and decide which items will be destined for laundering vs disposal.
- Ensure all distribution and collection stations surrounding the plant have bright, 5S friendly signage to ensure employee communication.
4) Employee Training
Employee Training is a critical point for implementation of an effective glove and sleeve recycling program. Training can be accomplished in a classroom setting with presentation visuals or simply in breakout group huddles throughout various departments. Employee training should be included at program implementation and onboarding process for new employees. Ask your full-service PPE Laundering vendor if their PPE recycling employee training will include:
- Safety specs – when is a glove or sleeve considered “scrap”?
- Environmental impact of the program
- Where to put dirty? Where to pick up clean pairs?
- Lab testing to ensure elimination of bacteria through laundering process
- Open forum questions from employees
5) Manage by the Metrics
Like any initiative, a glove recycling program should have managing metrics that allow the Safety Manager or Purchasing Manager to identify if the program is working effectively. Specific metrics to track include:
- Scrap Rate: What % of my PPE is identified as scrap and unusable? Can I get it broken down by type? Has it been increasing or decreasing? What’s the recent trend and why would it be changing?
- Capture rate: The % of PPE items that are captured vs recycling instead of being disposed of. If the capture rate falls it may be time for retraining. The higher the capture rate – the higher the waste minimization and cost savings associated with the program.
- Cost savings: Do you know how much this initiative was able to decrease PPE costs for your company?
- Waste diversion metrics: Also referred to as Sustainability Metrics: Do you know how many lbs of PPE was diverted from your waste manifest?
As the industry leaders in industrial PPE sustainability, Closed Loop Recycling offers a free trial of our full-service glove recycling and sleeve recycling programs. Click above to start your cost savings journey.