Woman wearing a face shield and mask donning blue disposable gloves.

Getting Your Hands on Disposable Gloves

A look at the pandemic’s effect on glove supply – and how to manage yours

 

The demand for disposable gloves is unprecedented. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for gloves globally spiked 45% and is projected to continue to increase over the next five years. This sudden spike has made it difficult for glove manufacturers to keep up with demand, leading to shortages, price increases and uncertain supply.

 

It’s Not Just Demand

Three main factors have created the current supply and demand imbalance.  The most obvious is the continuing spread of COVID-19 around the world and the resulting massive increase in demand. The second is a shortage of raw materials. Most of the world’s disposable gloves are produced in Malaysia because of its abundance of rubber trees used to make latex. However in recent years, the rise in latex allergies has led to a global shift to nitrile gloves. This, combined with the dramatic increase in demand, has outstripped the supply of raw materials required to produce nitrile product.

The third factor affecting the global disposable glove supply is capacity. Glove manufacturers were already running their factories close to capacity before the pandemic, so their ability to increase production is very limited. In addition, the manufacturing infrastructure for disposable glove production is very capital intensive, and it can take between 1-2 years to bring a new manufacturing facility online. All of this means we can expect disposable glove supply challenges to remain in place for a number of years. 

 

Managing Supply

There are a few strategies you can adopt to help manage your glove supply and keep employees safe. Try implementing the tips below to help keep your employees safe and facilities running:

1. Plan ahead

If possible, provide a forecast of upcoming orders to help us allocate available supplies, as meeting the needs of our existing customers is always our first priority.

 

 2. Use gloves responsibly

Educate employees on when gloves are required, the appropriate type to wear, and, when feasible and appropriate, how to group tasks that require gloves (such as mixing chemicals) to reduce the number of glove changes. NEVER reuse disposable gloves, and always ensure they are changed and safely disposed of in situations where cross-contamination could occur.

 

3. Invest in reusable

Invest in reusable gloves made from neoprene, nitrile or PVC for tasks that require less dexterity. Follow manufacturer’s directions to clean and disinfect reusable gloves.

 

4. Consider alternatives

There are a number of alternatives to nitrile gloves, such as PVC, polyurethane, polyethylene or spectra. Ask your account representative for advice on the best material choice for specific tasks.

 

Bunzl is very well established within the glove market, so we are well positioned with producers to secure our share of available inventory. Our procurement teams continually pursue secure, trusted and competitive sources of supply and will provide updates as market conditions change.