Celebrating PPE recycling since long before Covid

A PPE recycling program that employs people with disabilities is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Kimberly-Clark Professional started the The RightCycle Program as the first large-scale recycling effort for non-hazardous lab, cleanroom and industrial waste. Since 2011, the program hashelped more than 800 customers to divert over 1,400 tonnes of waste. 

The RightCycle Program collects previously hard-to-recycle personal protective equipment (PPE) such as garments, masks, gloves and goggles. These items are then recycled by regionally based recycling partners that create new pellets, which are used to produce consumer products and durable goods. These include flowerpots and lawn furniture, benches and bicycle racks.  

Expansion to Europe

Originating in the U.S. with a few scientific manufacturing customers, The RightCycle Program is now available in nine countries across Europe and North America with customers that include universities, zoos, laboratories, manufacturing facilities, breweries and a variety of other businesses.   

A partnership with the Dallas Zoo has led to the diversion of more than 2,444 pounds of gloves since 2018 – roughly the weight of its female hippopotamus.  

“When these gloves go to a landfill, they can be consumed by wildlife, or they can wind up in our oceans and harm marine life,” said Shannon College, a Dallas Zoo animal supervisor who runs the zoo’s “Green Team.” “Anything we can do to reduce that impact is vitally important to us.”  

“For over a decade, The RightCycle Program has been an industry-changing initiative, providing customers with a highly effective solution that not only helps mitigate waste, but also lowers disposal costs,” said Rob Hughes, vice-president of personal protective equipment at Kimberly-Clark Professional.

“As we continue to evolve the program, sustainability and innovation will remain at the core of our strategy as we find ways to ‘RightCycle’ even more products around the world and help deliver Kimberly-Clark’s purpose of Better Care for a Better World.”  

Helping people

The program also makes a difference in the lives of people with disabilities through its partnership with the Jackson County Developmental Center (JCDC) in Millwood, W. Va., a non-profit organization that provides employment for people who have survived traumatic brain injuries or have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities and other conditions. These workers sort and prepare used PPE prior to its recycling.  

Watch a video about how the program works in West Virginia and Kentucky

The company recently expanded The RightCycle Program in Europe to other categories to include the recycling of both plastic dispensers and hand towels.