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A Guide to Sustainable PPE

There is more and more concern over the impact of PPE on the environment, but how can you ensure that you keep everyone safe, meet budget requirements while maintaining sustainable practice? Here is a guide to some options that can help.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the increase in the use of disposable PPE has been dramatic, causing big concern for conservation organizations. With litter picking and beach cleaning groups reporting a huge increase in disposable face masks and gloves in particular littering beaches and countryside, many studies have been conducted. It transpires that the UK is expecting an extra 66,000 tonnes of contaminated waste from face coverings alone in 2020, according to the Plastic Waste Innovation Hub.

Many companies wish to address sustainability issues in their practice and procedures, but how can companies who are already challenged by the economic pressures of the pandemic address concerns while still keeping staff and customers as safe as possible?

The good news is that as more research has been carried out, it is becoming clearer that there are affordable and effective forms of PPE that are more sustainable. Also, it seems that there is less need for disposable PPE outside of medical settings.

Face masks

The guidance around PPE for healthcare and social settings differs from non-healthcare settings and this applies to face coverings that should be used. Click here to access the government PPE hub which offers guidance on both kinds of settings.

You can see guidance on face masks for non-healthcare settings here:

In summary, the key point is that in non-healthcare settings, face coverings are mainly used to prevent the wearer from infecting others, and often reusable fabric coverings are a highly effective and sustainable option.


While disposable gloves are recommended for healthcare settings and for clearing staff who are sanitising areas used by individuals who have been tested positive for COVID, in fact, official guidance states that it’s better for most workers and the general public to wash their hands or use sanitizer where possible rather than using gloves.

It is necessary to use gloves if using some chemicals such as cleaning products, you can use reusable gloves for this purpose and we have a range available.

However, as PPE in protecting against COVID, if you are not in a healthcare or social setting, and do not need gloves to protect against hazards such as heat, cold or cuts, for example, advice is to wash or sanitise your hands. The reason for this is that wearing gloves in other circumstances won’t necessarily protect you from COVID-19 and could actually lead to a spread of the virus. Many people in general work settings or using gloves for day-to-day tasks are not aware of how to put on and take off gloves in a way that minimizes cross-contamination. In addition, using gloves tends to lead to people having a false sense of security and touching their face or phone with contaminated gloves which is why using them can result in the glove wearer becoming infected by coronavirus.

Using soap and water is the most effective way to get rid of any coronavirus on your hands, because the soap breaks down the virus in a way that causes it to instantly disintegrate. The next best option, when water is not available is to use hand sanitiser.

So, what is the best sustainable option?


A plastic-free option for handwashing, soap bars are generally more sustainable and usually cheaper than liquid soap.

Many have avoided using soap bars during coronavirus for fear of transmitting the coronavirus via soap bars during frequent handwashing. But while at first glance it may seem liquid soap is preferable to use in times of pandemic as every user has their own ration, untouched by others, a raft of studies reveal that coronavirus, or indeed bacteria cannot be transmitted from person to person via bars of soap.

Of course, face masks and gloves have been a major cause of litter during the pandemic. But there are other forms of PPE which companies need on a regular basis that can also be sourced sustainably. One type, in particular, is hi-vis workwear which is often made from plastics and less sustainable materials.

One range we supply is the EcoViz® range from Leo Workwear. This is the leading brand of high visibility clothing made from recycled or sustainably sourced fabrics. All EcoViz® products fully conform to ISO 20471 whilst constructed from fabrics derived either from recycled post-consumer clothing or recycled plastic bottles.

When looking to find PPE workwear for more general use, those companies interested in becoming more sustainable might also be interested in some of the other sustainable workwear ranges we stock, including the range from ORN Clothing.

ORN Clothing are a manufacturer of high quality, ethically sourced, sustainable workplace products. They are mindful of responsibility towards the environment and ensure that all operations have as little impact on the environment as possible. For example, in their mission statement, ØRN INTERNATIONAL state they aim to source 100% recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030.

The other great thing about this range is that as well as offering great value, the workwear is of extremely high quality. This high-performance jacket, for example, is manufactured to top specification and is made from waterproof and breathable fabric.

(Waterproof rating 10,000m, Breathability rating 3,000g/m2/24hr).

It’s also designed with safety in mind, hi-vis zips and hi-vis piping along the shoulders, sleeve and hem panels. There is an external adjustable cuff for greater protection, and an internal elastane cuff for protection and comfort A full-length storm flap keeps out the elements and three external pockets with zip closures, along with an internal storage pocket, adjustable hem and a detachable, adjustable hood all contribute to making it useful, effective and an excellent choice for PPE workwear.

If you are looking to source more sustainable PPE our team are highly knowledgeable and happy to help. Please contact us on 01726 74264 or


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