Skip to main content

ReGlove

The ReGlove system produces a recyclable single-use protective glove, as a sustainable solution to the enormous waste streams caused by plastic disposable personal protective equipment (PPE).

What it does

Our system produces a glove made out of polyvinyl alcohol, a water-soluble polymer, that can easily be dissolved, sterilized, and remolded into new gloves. The solution is a machine that encompasses all of these steps, enabling an in-house recycling system.


Your inspiration

In 2016, 2.6 million metric tons of non-biodegradable single-use PPE waste was generated with approximately 300 billion single-use gloves landfilled that year. Many industries prefer to use disposable PPE to optimize their health and cleanliness standards. By doing so, a large amount of non-recyclable waste is created. Moreover, due to the current PPE shortage, non-healthcare companies can no longer provide the correct PPE for their workers, as resources are being redirected to hospitals. Overall, single-use PPE negatively affects the environment and can be easily susceptible to shortages when there is increased demand (COVID-19).


How it works

Since single-use gloves make up over 40% of PPE waste, the ReGlove system is focused on creating a circular process that promotes the recycling of single-use gloves, while not comprising the cleanliness and functionality of such equipment. The gloves will be manufactured from polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), a water-soluble polymer. Its water-soluble nature proves to be beneficial as liquids can be more easily filtered and sterilized. Our Reglove system takes advantage of this material by taking an input of contaminated PVA gloves, and then shredding, rinsing, dissolving, filtering, sterilizing, and remolding to create a fresh “new” pair of gloves. Therefore, this system will enable on-site remanufacturing of contaminated gloves, resulting in a more sustainable solution that will additionally offer independence from external PPE manufacturing facilities.


Design process

The team had an open project prompt and explored many areas within the waste industry. The idea originated when the team was trying to develop a system for more sustainable packaging. The thought was that the water-soluble nature of PVA would allow for easy at-home disposal via sinks/toilets, and then, later, the PVA could be separated and collected at water treatment facilities to create a circular system. It was found that although it is possible to filter out the PVA from the wastewater, it is difficult to separate the PVA from other contaminants found in wastewater. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic shifted our attention, as we discovered the enormous waste stream created by disposable PPE. The team realized that it was possible to close the loop in one system using one machine. The team managed to create a glove with mechanical properties that is comparable to the current alternatives on the market and more sustainable. The team were also able to build a machine that can dissolve, sterilize, and remanufactured these gloves automatically.


How it is different

This design is different compared to the current competitors on the market as it enables disposable protective gloves to be recycled easily and reliably. Today, disposable PPE ends up in landfills or incineration plants due to fear of contamination. Our 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. Disposable gloves are often manufactured and shipped long distances; our solution will significantly reduce the need for shipping and waste transportation as they can be recycled many times, on-site. We want to highlight the importance of preserving the value of the material, even in disposable products.


Future plans

In the future, we want to see this in-house recycling system in every industry that heavily relies on PPE. There should be no more landfilled or incinerated PPE. Through innovative engineering, even the most challenging problems in waste management can be solved, and we believe that there is value in all waste. This system is currently a proof of concept and will be further developed to manufacture products with higher efficiency. 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.


Awards


End of main content. Return to top of main content.