Lots of discarded latex gloves in the streets?

I suspect that most of the world has not noticed - but in the last couple of years, I’ve started seeing an increasing proliferation of used latex gloves in the streets. I live in Chicago, but I have noticed them in other cities too. They’re usually near the curb, or in alleys, near where cars go - most often just one, sometimes a pair. I’ve asked opinions - including that of a neighbor cop. I get everything from sex workers (for obvious reasons?) to drug dealers and gun shooters who want to eliminate fingerprints (more forethought than I’d expect from these types?) to everyday people who wear gloves in their jobs (to handle cash, for cleaning, etc.) and dispose of them before they get into their cars. Of course, latex gloves are simply more commonly used than they were before. What’s the explanation? Have the streets always been littered with them - and I’m just now noticing them… everywhere? An odd question - but I just have to ask.


As a cook, I go through a crapload of gloves every day (nitrile, not latex - latex is mostly phased out due to allergies these days), and all of those gloves go into the trash, From there they go to the dumpster. Depending on the dumpster and its location, it might be subject to foraging by animals and/or homeless people, and the gloves could end up on the ground. Or the trash might fall from a garbage truck and get spread around.

But just the gloves? Why not also food wrappers, boxes, soda bottles, Styrofoam padding, etc.?

Just as a WAG, but the gloves are eternal. Wrappers may be eaten by critters, pop bottles get scavenged quickly for their CRV/deposit, and foam packing gets crumbled and blows around.

They aren’t common on the streets in the Boston area even though I work in a facility that uses hundreds, if not thousands, of them a day. I don’t dispute your claim but I don’t recall seeing them in the other cities I frequent either.

We do have the “one shoe beside the road” phenomenon just like almost everywhere that no one can give a good explanation for. It may be like that.


All good points! Sure, nitrile, not latex. No, the gloves I’ve seen are not exactly eternal - I actually have observed many in a substantially degraded state over time. I’ve not seen any pattern in typical locations - i.e. not especially near hospitals, nor restaurants, etc. Most commonly, I see them near the street curb, commonly on residential streets (seemingly tossed out of a car while getting in or out - maybe by people coming home from working in a hospital, etc. ?). Yes, sometimes near dumpsters, I guess - but not typically anywhere near them. And of course there’s no shortage of other kinds of trash laying about, and I haven’t commented on that stuff. The thing is, I never noticed gloves before the last couple of years, and now I see them in LOTS of places - increasingly frequently (perhaps several times/week). Seems that either it’s some kind of observation bias - I may be “looking for them” without really meaning to… or they’re just used and discarded by a lot more people these days…or - there’s some kind of new usage that I haven’t figured out. Or none of the above. That’s what’s intriguing. Am I the only one who’s noticed this?

I’ve noticed a lot more places selling latex/nitrile gloves. It just may be that their cost has come down or some other factor is causing an increased usage of those gloves in day-to-day life. More usage = more waste, including waste that makes it onto the street.

Another possibility is that there is a program that hands these gloves out - for example, safe injection sites for addicts, or drug programs that give the gloves out to addicts to help protect them from blood contact when shooting each other up.

Yet another possibility is that the gloves have been mandated for some common outdoor task, and the workers are lazy about cleanup.

Nitrile (not latex) gloves are often worn by people working on cars. Keeps the hands clean.

This might be why the OP sees them where cars are parked.

Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk

There is also the possibility of confirmation bias.

It may be that there were always some latex glove around but once you started thinking they were overly abundant you started paying attention to them. So that it appeared as though they were suddenly everywhere.

nm: double post

That’s what started me collecting photos of lost gloves (including, but not limited to latex examples). Once you start seeing them, they are hard to unsee.

They are being used by more and more people. Such as truck drivers, delivery drivers of all sorts.

Avoids dropping the items and paper cuts and greasy fingers from pizza boxes and stuff like that.

These “gloves” are being used more and more in many many “industries”, tasks and jobs where they were never used before. To my thinking, it’s a fear of germ contamination.

I have to say, I’ve not noticed this at all. Like Mister Rik, I work in a place that goes through quite a few gloves as well. We use vinyl gloves here and while some do end up in the parking lot, they don’t exactly take off after that and we sweep them up afterwards. Someone asked about everything else in the dumpster (food wrappers etc). In part, most of our other garbage is food scraps, which is heavy and wet and what isn’t food scraps is soaking wet and weighted down by food scraps. Also, things that would get out with the gloves, like plastic, does, and we clean that up as well.

But if the OP is seeing this in residential neighborhoods, it’s not going to be food related. I suspect, as someone else mentioned confirmation bias. OTOH, you could pay attention to how often and where you’re noticing them. If they’re not actually everywhere you go but actually just localized to one small area, it could just be from one person. Similar to when you see 300 wads of the same color gum in one area or when you walk in to a huge office building and the ashtray has 40 cigarette butts, all the same brand, all smoked to the same length and all put out the same way; they’re all from one person.

I can’t imagine any hospital employee wearing their disposable gloves more than a step or two past walking away from a patient, much less making it almost all the way home. All the things you’re trying to protect yourself from are no inside your car, on your steering wheel. It would defeat the purpose.

Confirmation bias.

When you are looking for certain items, you see many more of them.

It’s like the phenomena of when you start thinking of buying a certain car make, and then you start noticing them more on the road than you did before.

It’s not even germs, but I think more and more people realize that for not a lot of money you can save a lot of time not washing your hands. That is, my friends will laugh when I put on gloves or use a rag/paper towel to pick up a dirty car part or work on an engine, but I’m the one that’s not spending 5 minutes cleaning grease off my hands later and then smelling like engine for the rest of the day.

Similarly, I keep gloves at home. It’s really nice to put them on, grab the chicken from the fridge, open the package, cut it, bread it, put it in the pan, put all the utensils I just used in the open dishwasher and throw out the gloves (then wipe down the counter). Nothing’s contaminated, don’t need to worry about anything on my hands. Same thing for hot peppers. Don’t have to worry about taking my contacts out 6 hours later and burning my eyes.

ETA, and all this is even more so now that anyone can walk into a AutoZone and find gloves right at the counter and and buy a little 10 pack to try them out. Harbor Freight has a whole aisle of them. You can get them on Amazon. They’re everywhere. Gone are the days when the only places you saw gloves were food service and medical workers.

Right - I got it (from the get go)… confirmation bias, more common uses, low cost, etc. - help explain the high incidence rate of me seeing them. But I’m still curious about the commonality in locations: most often near cars / curbs, very often residential. No pattern near dumpsters, hospitals, restaurants, etc. that I can see - and I have definitely looked for patterns. And no, not just my neighborhood. I’ve seen them in other cities - even other countries - fer feck’s sake.

Here’s the thing: I imagine that glove wearers would want to take them off and discard them pretty much immediately after coming near the offending fluids, gunk, germs, etc. so as to not contaminate their clothes, cars, steering wheels, keys, etc.(not to mention the likely fashion violation - wearing blue and purple gloves while going to and from the car - they don’t really go with anything). Does that mean that the hand-fouling offense happens in or near their cars? What would that look like? They’re not cutting chicken, stitching wounds, or cleaning auto parts near the curb. At least most are not (hmmm… new thoughts: moms changing baby’s diapers in the car seat? Contractors finishing nearby construction work?)

Anyway, barring new insights from the Teeming Masses, it seems that my initial nefarious glove-disposal theories (sex workers, drug dealers and gun-toters?), don’t fit, so I must acquit. I’ll write it off to observation bias and an overactive imagination! Thanks for your comments!

Chicago = lots of shootings = lots of medics treating victims = lots of discarded gloves.

When I first read this I was incredulous, but last night I spotted an abandoned glove on the sidewalk. That only took 3 days.