Each year, 100 billion pairs of gloves will be thrown into landfills. That’s enough to stretch to the moon and back 30 times. It will take them centuries to break down. Glubbs is on a mission to fix that.
Without getting too heavy-handed, we want to share the facts and figures of our gloves, why they’re great, and most importantly, why they’re responsible.
The long and short of it?
We took nitrile gloves and helped them become the best version of themselves.
Kind of like a life coach. With Glubbs, nitrile is living her best life. And she’s wearing fabulous prints while she does it.
But let’s dig into the equally fabulous science of it all.
First let’s talk about latex - what we’re not.
Latex is a natural rubber consisting of proteins, sugars, starches and gums that coagulate when exposed to air. To ensure it’s both elastic and heat-stable, latex goes through a process known as vulcanization, with chemicals added to promote strength, stretch and durability. However it’s still not puncture-resistant.
We’ve long relied on latex to create gloves, condoms and even some times of clothing. That is, until the rubber industry broke up with latex. (We heard they did it over text - cringe.) Despite its natural pedigree, latex presented problems with consumer use, and millions of people experienced a range of pesky allergic reactions. These included hives, rhinitis and bronchial constriction (Can you imagine that during a pandemic? Hard pass.)
All about Nitrile.
In the 80’s, a substance called nitrile hit the scene, right alongside shoulder pads, leg warmers and perms. Nitrile is a synthetic rubber derived from acrylonitrile and butadiene, and a handy (get it?) allergy-free alternative to latex. What nitrile lacks in comparative flexibility, it makes up for in durability. Nitrile gloves are sturdier and more puncture-resistant than their naturally occurring doppelganger, latex. They’re ideal for anyone handling hazardous or corrosive chemicals. For that reason, they’re fairly popular in the automotive, aeronautical and nuclear industries. Nitrile has shown strong resistance to mineral oils, vegetable oils, benzene/petrol, ordinary diluted acids and alkalines.
Unfortunately, for all the good that nitrile does, it’s decidedly less friendly to the environment once it hits a landfill.
So just how long does it take nitrile gloves to decompose?
Well, let’s put it this way. If someone had thrown away a nitrile glove in 1721 (when Peter I was named emperor of all Russia. Don’t act like we forgot), that glove would have finally decomposed… yesterday.
That’s right, it takes about 300 trips around the sun for nitrile to attract the microbes necessary to break down.
I think we speak for everyone when we say, yikes.
Now you’re probably thinking, but you said Glubbs are nitrile? How can they be sustainable gloves if that’s the case?
We don’t use regular nitrile; we use cool nitrile.
The science behind it
Glubbs are a special type of sustainable nitrile glove known as Biogreen™. They’re formed using a proprietary chemical mix that enables them to break down in as little as 5 years.
When exposed to the microbes in a landfill, they’ll decompose into simple components that don’t harm the earth. At least, that’s the Sparknotes version. Now let’s really dive into how biodegradability works in nitrile gloves, and the science behind it.
Biodegradation occurs primarily through degradative enzymatic activity. Sounds complicated, right? It’s not. It just means that these enzymes are breaking down (“degrading”) biological molecules. So where do these enzymes come from? They’re produced by the microorganisms that dominate landfills. These bacteria and fungi don’t require free oxygen to produce these enzymes, so they’re anaerobic (if you recall that vocab term from high school biology).
Think of these bacteria and fungi as that super fit, yoga-doing, tree-hugging friend of yours. They too have killer metabolisms (we’re jealous) and are really into recycling. The bacteria responsible for biodegradation consume and metabolise an array of different energy sources, break down organic matter, and zealously recycle those nutrients. See? Just like your hippie friend.
These microorganisms evolve over generations, so the resulting enzymes are likewise adaptable, under the right environmental conditions. For rubber glove disposal, this environment is usually an anaerobic municipal landfill.
Rubber (both natural & synthetic) undergoes a two-step degradation process. The first step is abiotic (chemical) oxidation, followed by the biodegradation by the microorganisms. Phew! Lot of jargon here, are you keeping up with us?
In Glubbs’ case, a key bio-additive material makes all the difference. This additive attracts specific, naturally-occurring microorganisms in the soil (faster than Justin Bieber can attract a pack of feral 12-year-olds). Not only that, but it can induce rapid microbial acclimatization to synthetic rubbers. We know what you’re thinking: “I flunked out of OChem. English please?” Not to fear, microbial acclimatization is pretty simple. You know how humans evolved over millions of years to have sharper teeth, stomach acid, opposable thumbs to help us chew, digest and pick up our food? If we treat rubber as their “food” in this scenario, then our additive helps the microorganisms do the same kind of thing - but really, really quickly. It’s like evolution in overdrive.
In case you’re wondering, this incredible additive doesn’t interfere with the rubber itself, shorten its shelf life, or otherwise cause non-landfill-induced degradation.
- Aliphatic polyester degradation is seen as a two-step process: the first is depolymerization, or surface erosion. The second is enzymatic hydrolysis which produces water-insoluble intermediates that can be assimilated by microbial cells.
- Microbial or enzymatic attack of pure aromatic polyester is increased by exposure to certain microbes in soil.
They were designed to be eco-friendly gloves, with proven biodegradability based on the internationally recognized ASTM D5511 Standard Test.
With regard to user safety, they were designed using a patented accelerator-free formulation that minimizes the risk of Type IV hypersensitivity reactions. They are powder-free, with an online-single chlorinated inner surface for smooth wear. Users enjoy all the benefits of an allergy-free experience, without the harmful effects to our home planet.
Our sustainable gloves are also medical-grade, food-grade, and meet and surpass stringent international standards and requirements. They will soon come in an assortment of colors and prints, so that wearers can look good and feel even better.
Suffice it to say, these win-win scenarios for the user and the environment are getting out of hand.