Plastic Gloves & Waste - How can you prevent the spread of infection without resorting to single-use

Many hotels that we know and work with are genuinely struggling right now to balance the prevention of the spread of infection with the prevention of waste.

Whilst we fully appreciate that health and well-being is of the utmost importance, we're also concerned that encouraging businesses to switch back to single-use (even temporarily) will not only significantly increase waste (the negative impacts of which will far outlast this particular pandemic) but that single-use does not necessarily equate to 'hygienic' or the prevention of the spread of infection.

Ultimately, preventing the spread of infection depends upon your own standard operating procedures (SOPs) and these will be different for each individual business.

Single Use Gloves

In every article we've read about #coronavirus COVID-19, the first line of defence is proper hand-washing with water and soap. If your hotel operates a food service then you will already be implementing a HACCP system and relevant staff will have been suitably trained to manage the risks associated with critical control points throughout the operation. Included within these measures are best practice hand-washing procedures and the proper use of gloves.

Whilst the majority of food preparation staff strictly adhere to hygiene protocols if wearing gloves (changing them after touching raw food, changing them after cleaning etc), we still continue to see improper use of gloves. The most common reason that we hear from staff is the perception that their hands are clean.

Over the past days, single-use gloves have sprung up everywhere, particularly in supermarkets but even at the bank! My personal concern is that the people using them have not undergone any type of training in the prevention of the spread of illness, least of all the general public. In the past three days, this is what has happened to me personally, what I have observed or read:

On Saturday 14th March I went to do our usual supermarket shop - reusable mesh bags at hand for fruit and veg and my iClean Mini in my handbag. This is what happened next....

  • I picked up a shopping basket with bare hands

  • I picked up a few products I thought about buying to look at the ingredients - I put some back on the shelf and others into the basket

  • I went for fruit and veg and was told to put gloves on, which I did (with parts of my potentially contaminated hands touching the outside of the glove to get the first one on

  • I chose my fruit and veg and weighed it in the mesh bag

  • I pulled my trolley again, now with the gloves touching the potentially contaminated handle

  • I watched other people do the same, I watched other people sneeze and cough into their gloved hands and continue to pick up fruit, veg and other non-fresh products (because we are creatures of habit). Some realised what they'd done and took the gloves off

  • I wondered whether I should leave my gloves on or take them off now...

  • I took them off, sprayed my iClean Mini on my own hands and carried on shopping

  • I put my shopping on the conveyer belt that other people with and without gloves had leaned on before me and would lean on after me

  • I paid with a card and pressed the numbers on the pin pad with no gloves, the person before me did it with gloves

  • I got to the car and used my iClean Mini again and tried to count all of the times I potentially transferred a virus or bacteria (coronavirus or not) from one object to another in the 20 minutes that I was in the supermarket.

On Monday morning I had an appointment at the bank, you cannot just turn up now as we are on a lockdown. The assistant manager opened the door with gloves, the branch manager asked me to sign documents on a tablet, neither of us wore gloves - out came the iClean Mini. I went home.

Yesterday (18th March) I read a blog encouraging hotel staff to wear gloves when carrying guests' suitcases, greeting them at reception, when handing them a key card or retrieving a key card and when handing them the pin pad to pay, despite the fact that as soon as the guest has touched the key card or the pin-pad and hands it back over, the staff's gloves are potentially contaminated.

Today I read that some people even turn gloves inside out to reuse them to save on cost or to reduce waste and only on a small number of occasions have I seen information about how to properly dispose of gloves from a waste perspective.

The moral of my long-winded narrative is that single-use does not always equate to good hygiene practices and in fact, it can exacerbate the situation as untrained people perceive their hands to be clean.

  • Where possible, consider the installation of additional hand-washing facilities for staff and guests (with non-touch operation for soap, taps and dryers)

  • Where this is not possible, provide non-touch dispensers with sanitising products

  • Give employees the opportunity to use bathroom facilities more often

  • Revisit your standard operating procedures for cleaning and sanitising, increasing frequency in areas of high touch

  • If you must use single use gloves, provide full training to all staff and a means to dispose of them responsibly.