This month the Haffenreffer Museum is honored to receive the Greenovation Award by Kimberly Clark’s RightCycle Program for diverting 7 pounds of nitrile gloves from the landfill into recycling.
The RightCycle Program coordinates the recycling of personal protection equipment (PPE), including protective clothing, safety glasses, and nitrile gloves. These materials are collected, processed into plastic pellets, and recycled into new consumer products.
Nitrile gloves are essential for working with collections because they protect both objects and staff. Human hands carry dirt and natural oils that can damage or degrade many materials in the collection. Some objects can also present risks to staff. This is especially true in the case of ethnographic collections. On the one hand, past conservation treatments often used toxic pesticides or chemicals that present threats to health, while on the other hand, some objects in collections may incorporate toxic pigments, poisons, or other materials that put staff at risk.
RightCycle Gloves BoxThe Haffenreffer Museum began its glove-recycling program during the fall of 2019, led by the museum’s Registrar, Dawn Kimbrel. Glove-recycling boxes are now located throughout the Collections Research Center and Manning Hall Gallery, including CultureLab, in workspaces where staff regularly handle objects from the collection.
RightCycle has become one of many projects organized by the Museum’s new Sustainability Team, led by Collection Assistant Patricia Duany. The team has also organized regular recycling for the museum’s offices and gallery and is currently growing seeds to plant “pollinator islands” when regular operations return to the offices. These projects “not only dovetail with Brown University’s Sustainability Plan,” said Duany, “they also reflect a larger push in the museum field towards environmental and social sustainability.” Through RightCycle, the Sustainability Team expects to divert 25 pounds of gloves in 2020. According to Duany, the Team also aims to organize more sustainable projects and changes for the Haffenreffer Museum going forward. “Sustainability doesn't only include ‘green’ initiatives like recycling, reducing emissions and energy consumption, and eliminating the use of toxic materials; it also means establishing meaningful partnerships with local communities and indigenous groups, implementing new techniques and policies for collection management, and prioritizing the wellbeing of staff and visitors.”