Can old toothbrushes be recycled?

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The importance of toothbrush recycling

According to the American Dental Association, toothbrushes should be replaced every three to four months. There’s no denying that, from a hygiene perspective, these recommendations should be followed, however plastic waste is a huge environmental issue, and plastic toothbrushes are a part of that issue.

Since most toothbrushes are manufactured using plastic handles and distributed inside of plastic packaging, neither have the ability to biodegrade, and as a result contribute to landfill and ocean pollution. 

Harmful chemicals are released when plastic petroleum comes into contact with UV ultraviolet rays, and if that wasn’t bad enough, microplastics in the ocean are ingested by marine-life, which may lead to adverse health affects across the whole food-chain (including humans). 

Aside from the handle, most toothbrushes bristles are made of nylon, another non environmentally-friendly material. Nylon does not biodegrade and therefore remains for a very long time, if not eternally.

Nylon can however be reused via recycled textiles (hence why many bamboo toothbrushes still use nylon bristles), although the process of recycling nylon is both chemically and energy intensive – Nylon remains a debated topic within the eco-conscious community when it comes to toothbrush bristles. 

Examples of eco-friendly dental recycling schemes

Some eco-friendly toothbrush materials include:

– Bamboo is a sustainable and biodegradable material that can be used as a plastic toothbrush alternative.

– Plant-based plastic materials are thought to breaks down more affectively under the right conditions.

– Using recycled plastic materials also helps to reduce plastic landfill pollution since it can be recycled and reused.

Since bamboo and plant-based toothbrush materials are capable of breaking down, the following examples focus on toothbrush schemes specifically for recycled plastic toothbrush types:

Preserve is an example of a company promoting a sustainable toothbrush culture. Their ‘Toothbrush Takeback’ scheme allows customers to ‘mail back old Preserve toothbrushes, which will be recycled into new products’. For every six Preserve toothbrushes that customers mail back, Preserve will also issue a coupon in return.

Preserve toothbrushes are made of recycled plastic and virgin nylon bristles. The toothbrushes are BPA free and 100% recyclable. Preserve also ensures products are never tested on animals.

The Colgate Oral Care Recycling Program is a collaboration between Colgate and TerraCycle. This scheme accepts not only old toothbrushes, but also used toothpaste tubes and dental floss containers.

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