Most consumers today are aware of the catastrophic environmental impact of single-use plastics. Plastic bags, bottles and straws pollute our oceans and destroy sea life, while microplastics contaminate the soil, infiltrate our food sources and have negative consequences on our health.

As individuals with growing awareness of these issues, we try our best to recycle our plastic waste and to avoid single-use plastics where possible.

Environmental Impact of Earplugs

Is big business following suit? Most companies, from large multinationals to SMEs, have an Environmental Policy that describes their eco-friendly policies and their intentions to reduce their environmental footprint and minimize production of waste.

After all, businesses that add to the world’s landfill burden attract unwanted publicity that could impact their profitability.

Disposable earplugs – an environmental nightmare

One still-commonly-used product in noisy industries is disposable ear plugs, which are supplied by the handful to employees without much thought for the environmental impact they create.

Literally millions of disposable earplugs and their wrappings are disposed of each day and sent to landfill, or worse, enter our rivers and waterways. They are not biodegradable; nor are they recyclable. Being small and light, they infiltrate our waterways and cause devastation in much the same way as plastic straws. 

For proper hygiene, Single-Use earplugs should be discarded as the name implies - after each use. That means they should be discarded at the end of every session, which is not the same as the end of every day. In fact, the average worker wears three sets of disposable plugs per day – one for the first session of the day, a second set after lunchbreak and a third set after tea break (or more if there are toolbox meetings, training sessions etc during the workday).

In a small factory of just 100 employees exposed to noise, the number of used earplugs that would be thrown away is approximately:

  • 300 pairs per day
  • 1,500 pairs per week
  • 6,000 pairs per month
  • 72,000 pairs per year
  • 360,000 pairs in 5 years

The sad reality is that this is occurring in workplaces all around the world, with many more employees, each and every day. The total number of earplugs tossed in the garbage or left lying on factory floors over the past few decades is simply staggering. And just how does this thoughtless practice align with the environmental policies of these same companies?

Custom moulded earplugs – an environmentally friendly solution

A quick, simple and cost-effective solution for these companies is to switch from disposable earplugs to custom moulded hearing protection. Monetary considerations aside, the real and ongoing saving from switching to customised ear plugs is in the cost to the environment.

Considering that Cotral’s moulded hearing protection has a 6-year guarantee, one set of Cotral’s earplugs will effectively replace 4,320 pairs of disposable plugs over that period.

Qeos: Cotral Lab moulded plug

Additionally, if you factor in the environmental cost of producing 4,320 disposable earplugs and their packaging against the environmental cost of producing just one set of Cotral’s custom moulded protectors, there is an obvious and significant saving in choosing Cotral.

Be aware that most other manufacturers of moulded earplugs do not offer a 6-year warranty; in fact, some only warranty their plugs for only one year.

Obviously, while they may be cheaper in dollar terms in the short term, these types of reusable earplugs need to be replaced more often and therefore do not offer the same environmental savings as Cotral’s do (as well as being more expensive over time).