Northern Michigan University’s Safety Department received two chairs made from recycled nitrile gloves, a thank-you gift for participating in RightCycle’s personal protection equipment (PPE) recycling program. NMU diverted more than 500 pounds of single-use glove waste from the landfill last year and is preparing to ship another box weighing about 300 pounds.
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 ranging from patio furniture and flower pots to plastic shelving.
“They had such a great year recycling PPE that they reached out to partners across the country with a list of products made from recycled materials that we could choose from,” said Kim Hegmegee, NMU occupational and environmental health specialist. “The chairs are great and even have cup holders that swing out from under the armrest. We’ve made a home for them in our office and checked out a sun lamp from Olson Library to set near them as a little wellness area.”
The chairs will serve as a visual reminder of Northern’s continuing commitments to sustainability and social responsibility, as outlined in its strategic plan. NMU began its partnership with RightCycle in fall 2020, anticipating increased reliance on single-use gloves as a Covid-19 precaution. The Safety Department purchased blue collection bins to place across campus, starting in “high-use” labs in Chemistry, Biology and Nursing.
“This year, it was on my radar that the new indoor agriculture program should also have a bin,” Hegmegee said. “But before I had a chance to follow through, one of the students in the program actually tracked me down and reached out to request one. That was really cool because it showed awareness and initiative on the part of our students.”
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 products.
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