Kimberly-Clark Professional, a global leader in contamination control solutions for cleanrooms and laboratories, is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of The RightCycle™ Program, the first large-scale recycling effort for non-hazardous lab, cleanroom and industrial waste. Since 2011, the program has empowered more than 800 customers to divert over 1,400 metric tons 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.
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 a wide range of customers that include universities, zoos, laboratories, manufacturing facilities, breweries and a variety of other businesses.
The RightCycle Program has made a difference for many customers. 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.”
The RightCycle Program is part of Kimberly-Clark’s 2030 ambition, which is to advance the well-being of 1 billion people in underserved communities around the globe while reducing the company’s environmental footprint by 50 percent. Kimberly-Clark understands that a strong and enduring focus on safeguarding natural systems is just as essential to helping people live a better life. To that end, the company is focused on the areas where it can make the biggest difference – climate, forests, water and plastics.
“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.
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.
Kimberly-Clark aspires to be at the forefront of the transition to a circular, reuse economy by reducing waste, promoting waste-handling system improvements and innovating new ways of providing people with the products that they need to live their best lives. To that end, the company recently expanded The RightCycle Program in Europe to other categories to include the recycling of both plastic dispensers and hand towels. This will provide Kimberly-Clark Professional with an even greater opportunity to reduce its environmental footprint in collaboration with its customers.