In Malaysia, a producer of medical gloves is hoping to address the environmental impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by introducing a natural rubber medical glove that biodegrades 100 times faster than its synthetic counterparts.
According to Meditech Gloves, 300 billion medical gloves will be used in 2020, enough to fill the Empire State Building a mind-boggling 25 times. “It is commonly believed that the nitrile (rubber) glove is the answer to everything—but if you imagine their usage all over the world, it’s huge,” Effendi Tenang, CEO at Meditech Gloves tells the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “There is always (an alternative way) to what is commonly believed.”
Based in in Nilai, near Kuala Lumpur, Tenang collaborated with Krzysztof Koziol, a professor of composites engineering at Cranfield University, to develop the natural rubber glove. They also developed a process to manufacture the gloves faster, which was key early on in the pandemic. “No one was thinking about biodegradability during COVID … the first thought was ‘how do I get gloves in the first place’,” he said. “There was this kind of rush and we have to learn from this for future pandemics—how to handle the situation so we are not making the wrong decisions… We have the technology to do this right, rather than pay the price in the future with piles of gloves in the ocean.”