Giving new life to single-use gloves

What’s the design in a nutshell?
ReGlove is a smart system that produces recyclable single-use gloves as a sustainable alternative to disposable plastic gloves.

Why is it needed?
Every year, 100 billion single-use plastic gloves are thrown away and end up in landfills. In addition, many industries, such as healthcare, food and beverage, consume a large number of disposable gloves daily to maintain hygiene standards.

In response to the spread of COVID-19, the global demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) has grown significantly, putting extra pressure on plastic waste management. Per day, hospitals in Wuhan, China alone, produced over 240 tonnes of single-use plastic medical waste, including face masks, gloves and gowns, at the peak of the pandemic. It’s also estimated that 65 billion gloves and 129 billion face masks are used monthly to protect the global population from the disease. 

How does it work?
The gloves from ReGlove are made out of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), a water-soluble polymer that can be easily repurposed into new gloves. By simply dissolving the gloves in water, contaminants can be easily removed in liquid forms by 'autoclaving' - a sterilisation method that uses high-pressure steam.

From production to recycling, the whole process can be completed through just one pre-programmed machine. Taking over shredding, rinsing, dissolving, sterilising and remoulding to create a new and sterile pair of gloves. 

"ReGlove focuses on creating a circular model to reduce plastic waste."

How does it improve life?
Rather than completely dropping the disposable feature, ReGlove focuses on creating a circular model to reduce plastic waste. The team believes that disposable products exist for a legitimate reason. Today, many plastic products end up in landfills due to people’s fear of contamination. So for the engineers and designers, the question was: 'How can we keep the functionality of disposable gloves and make them last longer?' 

Traditional disposable gloves on the market are hard to recycle, and even as technology advances, it’d require new shipping and transport solutions for recycling. Yet, the water-soluble material adopted by Reglove makes on-site manufacturing possible, with no need for new recycling facilities. 

What’s the impact to date?
In 2020, ReGlove was nominated as one of the top 20 finalists of the prestigious James Dyson Award. Even though this smart recycling system is at the proof of concept stage, it’s expected to be applied across various industries that are heavily dependent on PPE. Through innovative engineering technologies, the team plans to optimise the system so that scalable manufacturing can be achieved with higher efficiency.