While you would be very conscious of what PPE costs your business to buy, the environmental cost of it is harder to work out. Most PPE is not recycled and is sent to landfill. The main environmental impacts of landfill include:
- toxins released by the waste into soil and groundwater
- highly toxic liquids, known as leachates, are created as water runs through waste that is breaking down
- greenhouse gases released by waste as it decomposes
Landfill also puts pressure on councils and communities, as it all needs somewhere to go! While you may not consider it from day to day, the waste your company or site creates through PPE usage is significant!
PPE usage example:
Imagine ABC Pty Ltd has 200 employees, and each employee uses this PPE to stay safe and comfortable:
3 pairs of Cotton Gloves per week – 40kg per week
1 pair of Shoes or Boots per year – 1kg
1 Winter Jacket per year – 1kg
2 Polos per year – 0.5kg
2 pairs of Trousers per year – 0.5kg
Annual Total of PPE sent to Landfill: 2,680kg
The numbers add up quickly, don’t they? While you can never completely remove the usage of consumables like PPE, there are ways you can easily reduce this number for your site. Below are 4 ideas you can implement today!
4 Ways to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Your PPE Disposal
Focus on purchasing value and quality, not only cost
You are probably constantly told to lower costs and find cheaper PPE products. However, you should always purchase the product with the best VALUE, not necessarily the best COST.
So, what is the difference between cost and value?
The cost of a product is the amount you spend to purchase it. I.e. What is the number on the bottom of the invoice?
The value of a product is the benefit of that product to your company over the long term. I.e. How long will it last? Does it have a warranty? How safe is it?
From an environmental perspective, the same rule applies. While it might be CHEAPER to hand out a budget pair of gloves to your staff every day, how much less waste would be created if you gave them a more premium glove that lasts 2 weeks? Products that carry decent warranties, like Badger’s freezer wear, are guaranteed to last longer than alternatives, and thus, will help you reduce what PPE waste you send to landfill.
Focusing on value and quality, rather than the cold, hard cost, will help you increase the longevity of your PPE and thus, reduce your site’s environmental impact.
Choose products that are washable
Naturally, PPE gets dirty. As your staff go about their jobs they rub against frames, racking, buildings and so on. This dirties the PPE they’re wearing which not only ruins it’s appearance, but often damages and disintegrates it as well. Do you simply chuck out your dirty PPE, or can you wash it?
We spoke to a large cold store recently that was using freezer jackets that couldn’t be washed because the hi visibility material and tape faded from washing. They were regularly throwing out large thermal jackets (1-2kg each!), simply because they were so dirty.
By choosing products that can be washed (and are tested for washing), you will drastically reduce the amount of PPE you dispose.
Partner with a PPE Recycling Program
Another factor that increases how much PPE goes to landfill is that it is often hard to recycle. The fabrics and components are often difficult to find a suitable second use for.
However, there are some companies (including Badger Australia) that specialize in it. Partnering with a PPE recycling program will mean items like gloves and workwear can be removed from site and distributed to manufacturers that can use the components in their products.
This will allow you to direct a large percentage of PPE landfill to more a sustainable and eco-friendly disposal method.
Keep track of your purchases and use reporting to reduce your usage
Another effective way to reduce how much PPE you use is by having a system of ‘traceability’ in place. A system like QuickFit allows you to track your usage per employee and create detailed reports to view this. This traceability allows you to ensure employees are not wasting PPE or using more than their quota. You can read more about this idea in this article.