Incorporation of Waste Medical Rubber Gloves in the Composite Industry
The main reason many researchers choose to recycle waste rubber gloves as their substitute raw material is due to the gloves’ unique properties such as having very large elongation behavior. The material has been especially designed with high strength and elasticity to reduce the risk of gloves rupturing or tearing during use. Also, rubber gloves are relatively cheap and easy to get, which leads to low processing costs. Thus, instead of being treated as useless garbage and pollutant waste rubber, gloves have become a valuable source of new functional materials (Ahmad et al., 2016).
Some of the research has proven that filler from waste gloves helps to give better properties to the composite. For example, blending of filler from waste acrylonitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) gloves with epoxidized natural rubber (ENR 50) and NBR rubber glove waste blended ENR 50 has shown improvement of tensile strength, modulus, and elongation at break (Ahmad et al., 2016; Salleh et al., 2016). One report says that waste rubber gloves were chosen as their filler in order to utilize the excellent puncture and tear resistance of the rubber gloves. These properties give additional value to the newly developed material or composite (Ahmad et al., 2016).
On top of that, rubber flexible properties play a major role in polymer- based composite in which commonly the matrix is a stiff material. Rubber provides flexibility or a soft phase in the composite, while matrix polymer such as polyester provides a hard phase that provides strength to the composite (Esmizadeh et ah, 2017). The combination of the two distinct behaviors of these constituents gives the composite a remarkable property for the composite and can be applied in wide ranges of industry. Nuzaimah et al. (2019) have carried out a study by incorporating waste rubber gloves into unsaturated polyester. Their work showed that the incorporation of waste rubber improved a composite’s toughness but did encounter a setback of experiencing lower tensile and flexural strength (Nuzaimah et ah, 2019). Another interesting finding was by Riyajan et ah (2012), who developed a polymer composite using waste rubber gloves blended with waste polystyrene foam and sugar cane leaves. The composite with the addition of waste rubber gloves produced better composite mechanical properties (Riyajan et ah, 2012).
Rubber gloves, especially medical gloves, have been widely used in various fields for barrier protection because they are extremely elastic, very resilient, durable, and resistant to many chemicals, gaseous, and environmental agents. The manufacturing process for medical rubber gloves is very strict and must comply with the specific requirements for gloves in order to ensure that the gloves are of the finest quality and are capable of providing full protection. Growing demand for rubber products, including rubber gloves, has a negative impact on the environment as the highly durable properties of rubber make it difficult to degrade. Hence, ideas for recycling the rubber products have been developed, and the w'orks are evolving. Waste rubber products, rubber medical gloves included, were used as an alternative to new raw materials or to replace existing material. Additionally, the waste rubber gloves are relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain, which results in low processing costs. Many studies have found that the use of the waste rubber in composites has improved the composites’ properties. Rubber provides composites with better toughness, damping, and fatigue properties as well as enhanced durability and flexibility. In conclusion, the recycling of waste rubber and waste medical rubber gloves into composites has a great potential to benefit many areas while at the same time helping to save the environment.
The authors would like to thank Universiti Putra Malaysia for the financial support provided through the Putra Grant IPS (9607000), Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka, and Ministry of Education Malaysia for providing scholarship to the principal author to conduct this research project and the facilities support by Institute of Tropical Forestry and Forest Products (INTROP), Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering and Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia.
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