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100 tonnes of monthly glove waste upcycled as footwear

The footwear made from the country’s glove waste. (Steven Ng pic)

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s rubber glove industry has grown exponentially over the past two years. Demand skyrocketed during the pandemic, with the local nitrile medical glove industry making three out of four gloves used globally.

As demand has grown, so has the waste. It is estimated that the rubber industry produces an estimated 100 tonnes of rejected nitrile glove waste monthly, according to reports.

To Geomax Rubber Innovative Products Sdn Bhd founder, Steven Ng Yong Beng, this is a major issue – and a perfect opportunity.

“Rejected disposable nitrile gloves are not easy to recycle, and find their way into landfills where they can take up to 100 years to decompose,” Steven explained.

He added that not only do they fill up landfills, but they also release toxic chemicals that can be harmful to the environment.

Being ecologically conscious, Steven sought to solve the growing problem. Developing and patenting his own technology along with his team of innovators, he began upcycling the rejected nitrile gloves into unique footwear.

“For each pair of sandals, for example, to make the rubber sole we managed to save 18 pairs of rejected nitrile gloves from the landfill,” he showcased proudly.

The glove waste is pounded before being processed to make footwear. (Steven Ng pic)

The outcome of this upcycling process is a durable, anti-slip rubber sole aptly named Solewell.

Highlighting the rigorous testing the material has gone through with SIRIM, Steven said that his upcycled nitrile rubber material performed better than virgin material found in other products.

Furthermore, Solewell is almost infinitely recyclable once it reaches its end of life, making it a highly sustainable product compared to its competitors.

Steven Ng. 

These upcycled products include safety boots, safety shoes, casual and even leather shoes.

But beyond all this, Steven feels the most important aspect of his work is the purpose each product delivers not only to its customers but also the environment.

“To further my efforts and to support sustainability beyond upcycling, Solewell donates RM2 to an environmental fund for every NATURE edition eco-sandal sold.

“We do this so consumers will definitely not only get a good pair of sandals, but also get to contribute to the planet as well!” he said.