Kristen Weeks and Carley Reid, chemistry graduate students at Florida State University, have taken their passion for sustainability beyond the lab by initiating a glove recycling project.
The pair has managed to turn their concern for plastic waste into a practical and impactful endeavor that has caught the attention of their department and beyond.
The inspiration for the glove recycling project was borne out of Reid’s interest in sustainability, which was recognized by chemistry Professor Brian Miller. Reid teamed up with Weeks, who had previous experience with a glove recycling program at the College of Charleston in South Carolina during her undergraduate studies.
Their initial project involved assessing single-use plastics within their department. Their work revealed that gloves were the largest contributors to plastic waste.
Their solution involved partnering with TerraCycle, a company that specializes in recycling materials that are difficult to recycle conventionally. Through the FSU Sustainable Campus Green Fund Grant, they secured $5,000 in seed money to kickstart their initiative. The funding enabled them to purchase specially designed collection boxes for communal areas in their research buildings.
Collecting gloves from these designated drop-off points, Weeks and Reid recycled 193 pounds of gloves, equivalent to nearly 28,000 pairs, in just over a year.
“We can’t recycle very hazardous gloves, so this isn’t even the whole amount of gloves that our department is even using but it is a sizable fraction,” said Reid, who grew up in Palatka, Florida, and hopes to use her scientific knowledge to solve environmental issues.
The gloves are sent to TerraCycle for recycling, which transforms them into products such as park equipment, benches, Frisbees and coasters.
While the project requires consistent monitoring and periodic collection, Weeks and Reid manage their responsibilities alongside their regular research work. They dedicate a few hours a semester to collecting and sending out the gloves.
For now, the glove recycling program is operating within the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. However, Weeks and Reid have ambitions for its expansion.
Weeks, who works in an organic chemistry lab studying different copper catalyzed reactions and hopes to go into the law side of chemistry in the future, said they aim to collaborate with other departments such as biology and physics, with the goal of fostering a culture of sustainability and waste reduction throughout FSU.
They said they hope to share their experiences and findings at conferences to inspire broader change in plastic consumption practices.
“As scientists, we often consume disposable plastics in our work, making it challenging to align with environmental concerns,” Reid said. “We aim to change this mindset and reduce our plastic waste, inspiring a wider shift in how we approach sustainability.”
Weeks added: “TerraCycle and projects like ours highlight that it’s possible to make a significant impact on sustainability goals. By collaborating with them and spreading awareness, we can encourage others to follow suit.”