The method of glove disposal depends on how the glove was used.
If the glove is contaminated with a toxic compound or biological material that is covered by any disposal regulations, the gloves must be handled in the same way as the toxic material itself.
If gloves are not contaminated or have been properly decontaminated, either landfill or incineration is a satisfactory means of disposal (see below).
Since ordinary aerobic or anaerobic decomposition processes in gloves will not form any toxic products, gloves may be disposed of in any landfill. Breakdown in landfill will be very slow except for products made of natural rubber. Incineration is an optimum choice, but glove disposal by incineration can lead to pollution by the release of toxins. However, a good incinerator unit will completely burn all types of gloves as well as any intermediate decomposition products formed during the process.
The environmental impact of used-glove disposal has become an increasing concern for all industries. The factors that must be considered when choosing incineration or disposal in a landfill vary with material type:
- Combustion of natural rubber latex gloves is quite clean, although some hydrocarbons, minute quantities of unreacted nitrogen-based chemicals, and sulphur dioxide may be produced at low incineration temperatures. In a landfill, residual chemicals will leach out as the rubber biodegrades.
- Incineration of vinyl gloves reduces the PVC to hydrochloric acid gas, minor residual chemicals, and ash. Under standard landfill conditions, vinyl is not biodegradable. However, esters of phthalic acid, which are used as plasticizers and make up about 50% of the total volume, will leach from the material if it comes in contact with nonaqueous solvents. Before choosing incineration for PVC gloves, users should ensure that local laws do not ban such a practice.
- Nitrogen-based reaction products are released minimally during incineration of nitrile gloves; the other chemical by-products are similar to those produced by natural latex. In a landfill, residual chemicals such as accelerators will leach out, as they do in rubber gloves; the nitrile itself will resist degradation.
- Polychloroprene gloves release hydrochloric acid gas, carbon monoxide and dioxide, various hydrocarbon and partially oxidised hydrocarbon and partially oxidised organic compounding chemicals during incineration and they are not biodegradable. Always comply with local regulatory agencies rules for proper disposal.