Sierra Nevada has taken another step in its sustainability journey – diverting thousands of pounds of nitrile gloves from its manufacturing waste stream through The RightCycle Program from Kimberly-Clark Professional. Since 2016, the company has diverted more than 6,800 pounds of gloves, equivalent to the weight of more than 450 bowling balls.
The RightCycle Program is the first large-scale recycling program for manufacturers and companies with non-hazardous lab, cleanroom and industrial waste. Since its launch in 2011, the program has diverted more than 500 tons of waste from landfills. As part of the program, used nitrile gloves, safety eyewear and single-use apparel are sent to recyclers in the United States and turned into plastic pellets that are used to create new consumer goods such as flowerpots and lawn furniture, totes and storage bins.
“What’s cool about Kimberly-Clark and The RightCycle Program is they were the first to focus on this material,” said Mandi McKay, sustainability coordinator for Sierra Nevada’s Chico headquarters. “Nitrile gloves are not easily recycled. They can’t be comingled with other items. It has to be its own process.”
Sierra Nevada learned about the program from Lundberg Family Farms, an organic food producer that brought the program to its manufacturing facilities in 2015. When employees in Sierra Nevada’s Mills River, North Carolina, facility found out about The RightCycle Program they were so eager to pilot it that they began collecting gloves even before the program was implemented.
The reaction to the program throughout Sierra Nevada has been highly positive. “People think it’s great,” McKay said. “They like that we have an outlet for the gloves. They’re proud. It’s part of our culture, part of their daily job.”
And, she added, “It aligns with our company values. It makes sense for us, by contributing to a more positive environmental impact overall. We tend to pioneer a lot of things and I’m glad we’re part of a program like this.”
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