The 3Rs hierarchy – reduce, reuse, recycle – is well established in most manufacturing industries. And in challenging economic times, unnecessary waste is an expense no company can afford. Gloves and garments are significant items of expenditure, but their nature and purpose mean that the scope for cutting cost by reducing usage is not a viable option.
When it comes to cleanroom garments, reuse is an option. But the decision will depend on the number of changes, the nature of the facility and the levels of inventory that would be required. A combination of single-use, limited life and reusable garments could be the most cost-effective solution, but getting the balance right is a challenge.
Education of end-users can help to keep costs down by observing good gowning practices and restricting the overuse of garments, but this will happen only if the garments on offer are comfortable.
It is natural to baulk at throwing away items that may have been worn for only a few hours, so the cleanroom industry is likely to welcome the initiative by Kimberly-Clark Professional and TerraCycle to introduce a recycling programme for non-traditional cleanroom waste streams, including a wide range of garments.
Kimberly-Clark Professional supplies a complete package to enable customers to recycle, tracks the waste reduction achieved and reports the information back. TerraCycle collects, converts and resells the waste materials.
The scheme may not make the use of disposable garments more economically advantageous, but at least Planet Earth will benefit.