Discarded Latex Gloves Don’t Belong in the New Normal

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: April 18, 2020

The fact that they’re becoming a common sight shouldn’t come as a surprise.

All across Chicago, latex gloves litter our city sidewalks and parking lots. COVID-19 continues to create an ever-changing maze of problems. It’s hard to know when things will finally get back to normal.

Until then, discarded latex gloves are a New Normal problem we can start solving right now.

They Clog our Sewer Systems

Take a solitary ride along a favorite bike trail. You’ll probably see latex gloves thrown to the ground. They’re usually easy to spot. Often bright blue or yellow, we see them tossed aside in parks and dropped in front of grocery stores.

Think about all the discarded latex gloves we don’t see.

clogged sewer system in chicago

They make their way into city drainage networks where they overload and clog sewer systems. Even after the coronavirus is under control, people may well continue wearing gloves for personal protection.

The potential for latex gloves to overwhelm and contaminate a community’s infrastructure is enormous.

Discarded Latex Gloves Are Medical Waste

The coronavirus can live for several days on surfaces and materials. A discarded glove can pass along the virus to anyone who might touch it. A latex glove that’s been left on the ground after contact with COVID-19 contamination becomes a type of medical waste.

When that same glove washes down a storm gutter, it can carry dangerous pathogens into a municipal drainage system. If heavy rains flood the area, the coronavirus can potentially become present in floodwaters and sewage backups.

The results could have devastating effects on our water treatment facilities.

Think About Who We Put in Danger

We’re wearing latex gloves because we need to protect ourselves from COVID-19. Our families depend on us to do all we can to keep them safe. They wear gloves too. Containment is critical for everyone.

When used latex gloves aren’t disposed of properly, they breach our containment strategies. They no longer protect us.

grocery stork clerk wearing PPE for coronavirus

Instead, discarded latex gloves become a serious threat to everyone who might come in contact with them. The list of possibilities is very concerning.

• Waste management workers
• City health department personnel
• City grounds-keeping crews
• Essential workers at grocery stores
• Professional cleanup and restoration teams
• Anyone picking up gloves without PPE

Consider the Impact on Our Planet

While discarded latex gloves pose a risk to our health, they’re also a long-term problem for the planet. Depending on how a glove is manufactured, it can be considered biodegradable.

However, the process takes years.

glove washed ashore

Multiply that length of time by the sheer volume of this New Normal problem. Latex gloves are thrown away around the world.

They infiltrate storm drain systems, but they also wash into natural bodies of water. From lakes and rivers to oceans, the gloves contaminate waterways and create a unique threat to our planet’s marine life.

We’re All Part of the Solution

Each one of us has a simple, powerful way to combat discarded latex gloves. When you go out wearing protective gloves, take along a sealable plastic bag for disposal. Bag the used gloves and toss in a nearby trash can, or throw them away when you get home.

Imagine your actions multiplied by hundreds of thousands of other people. Harness the collective strength of social media with a hashtag that brings attention to the problem. Share ideas on how to mitigate the coronavirus at a workplace or how to handle staying at home.

Here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, our teams are in the field every day. By working with others across Chicago, we’re working on New Normal solutions. We know you are too, and we thank you for doing your part.

It’s just one pair of latex gloves, but it makes such a big difference.

How do I safely take off latex gloves?

Pinch the outside wrist of one glove, and turn it inside out as you peel it off. Hold on to it, and repeat the action on your other glove. Immediately dispose of the latex gloves in a sealable plastic bag or trash can.

Should I sanitize my hands after taking off latex gloves?

Yes. Sanitize them as soon as possible. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Otherwise, rub them down with a hand sanitizer made with aloe vera gel and 70% rubbing alcohol.

Can I wash and reuse latex gloves after wearing them to avoid COVID-19?

No. Most of the latex gloves available today are not intended for multiple use. Protect yourself and others by safely removing the gloves and disposing of them properly.