For those that rely on them, a life without washing up gloves is inconceivable, but a mere pin prick in one finger of one glove consigns the entire pair to the bin. This raises some serious sustainability questions given that repair is not easy and they are not widely recycled (though Marigold - the most famous brand of washing up gloves here in the UK - have teamed up with Terracycle who do recycle gloves in some city centres, though you would have to make a special trip to drop them off).
On the bright side, however, if they are pure cotton-lined latex they will biodegrade, and are home compostable too. They break down quickly if left in the sun before cutting them into a compost bin. This is good news but doesn't reduce the pressure on rubber production which turns out to have issues similar to those around palm oil. Rubber trees are tropical but offer little in the way of biodiversity when farmed intensively and in the Far East especially, huge swathes of rain forest are being swapped for rubber plantations. Reducing the amount of virgin rubber used is as important as finding sustainable ways to dispose of it.
That is why I conducted this experiment in reusing rubber gloves. "Fits Like a Glove" is crocheted from strips of discarded rubber washing up gloves and is a request for these gloves to be sold singly as right and left handed gloves, to prevent perfectly useful gloves from being binned (I'm talking about the hand that doesn't have the hole in it!). It is a request, also, for a couple of simple self-adhesive patches to be included with each glove, extending its useable life by allowing minor repairs to be made quickly and easily.
I've passed this request onto Marigold, as well as to If You Care who manufacture Fairtrade gloves in cardboard packaging, but still by the pair and without any means of repair. I'm also working with our local Council to ensure that the rubber gloves ending up in our bins will be recycled. Again, whilst they are biodegradable, recycling them so the rubber is reused reduces pressure on rainforests.
So, if your washing up sessions are incomplete without hand protection, maybe think twice about binning them and, if you are right handed, make friends with a left handed glove user and do some swaps!