Whether it is the power, reliability, or durability, 75% of all RAM 2500 and 2500 Heavy-Duty pickup owners choose the optional Cummins Inc. 6.7L Turbo Diesel. Manufacturing of this legendary engine is getting cleaner every day.
In April of 2022, Columbus Mid-Range Engine Plant (CMEP) Indirect Materials Manager, Sven Creutz and Continuous Improvement Leader, Clayton Johnson, implemented a nitrile glove recycling program to divert waste from landfills. But what are nitrile gloves and what has been the impact of the plant’s program so far?
What are nitrile gloves?
You have probably seen the bright purple, orange or blue gloves in your doctor’s office, pharmacy, or local automobile shop. Nitrile gloves are a standard PPE practice in many food, industrial, and chemical lab environments. Made from the compound nitrile, these synthetic, rubber gloves are particularly popular due to their chemical and abrasion resistance. They are water, grease, and oil proof, often making them the top choice in gloves, over others like latex, for occupations working long hours and exposed to harmful substances.
How are nitrile gloves used at CMEP?
For plant employees, nitrile gloves work as a second barrier to protect Cummins employees from exposure to harmful chemicals and injury as they inspect the 6.7-liter diesel engine. Employees typically wear nitrile gloves as a base layer under a thicker pair of gloves for safety purposes.
Conversely, they also protect residue that employees may have on their hands from contaminating products.
Every hour, plant employees switch their gloves as a requirement to adhere to strict product quality standards. While use of the gloves protects both Cummins employees and products, the waste produced can be large. Nitrile gloves are a single-use PPE item; after first use, they cannot be worn again for protection against harmful substances potentially left on the surface.
Nitrile gloves are considered less biodegradable than their latex counterparts and are often not recycled due to their use in facilities where they could be contaminated and therefore considered too hazardous to be reused.
In one year, 800 Cummins Mid-Range Engine Plant employees can go through over 530 cases of nitrile gloves, equating to roughly 875,000 gloves.
The impact of the nitrile glove recycling program
Kimberly-Clark Professional, global corporation dedicated to producing consumer and company safety, healthiness, and hygienic products, and one of the first manufacturers to offer a recycling program for non-hazardous PEE, partnered with the plant to recycle and repurpose their biodegradable nitrile gloves.
The plant fills gaylords full of nitrile gloves every two weeks and ships them to be sorted by a non-profit organization in western Virginia, Rightcycle, that provides jobs for disabled and disadvantaged workers. Used, non-contaminated gloves are then converted into plastic pellets and made into new products like storage bins, shelves, and lawn chairs. In the end, Columbus Mid-Range Engine Plant has created a lifecycle for nitrile gloves while simultaneously creating jobs, Creutz explained.
Since the program launched, the plant has gathered and shipped one ton of gloves to the Rightcycle facility. If the plant continues to use an average of 530 cases of gloves they typically go through in a year, they could expect to divert almost 3.75 tons of waste from landfills each year.
The Columbus Mid-Range Engine Plant is able to achieve key 2030 goals included in Cummins’ PLANET 2050 strategy by creating a circular lifecycle for materials as well as generating less waste in facilities and operations through the recycling program. For owners looking for sustainably manufactured engines, Columbus Mid-Range Engine Plant is setting the standard.
Click here to learn more about key sustainability initiatives at CMEP.