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We all want a clean mouth but don’t we want a clean planet, too? Plastic toothbrushes are responsible for approximately 50 million pounds of U.S. landfill waste each year. So, how do we stop filling our earth and oceans with billions of brushes while still keeping our smiles fresh and white?
The answer is in the general three-part waste reduction theory: recycle, reuse, reduce.
How to recycle toothbrushes
One of the reasons why so many toothbrushes are found floating around the ocean or taking up space in our landfills is because most people aren’t really sure what to do with them. These small, yet abundant, oral care tools are made of multiple plastics—from the handle and the grip to the various bristle styles. Even if it is technically a recyclable toothbrush, its small pieces often get stuck in machinery and can’t always be recycled in the same facility together. This means that many local recycling centers will simply sort out and toss the brushes into the waste pile.
Some programs have been developed that allows participants to ship in their used recyclable toothbrush, toothpaste tubes, and dental floss containers for proper recycling. To reduce cardboard waste, make sure to collect a large portion of used dental tools before shipping it off.
How to reuse toothbrushes
If you don’t feel like collecting tubes and toothbrushes all year to send into a recycling center, you might consider finding some new uses for the brush. While most dentists will recommend retiring your brush every 3 months due to concerns of bacteria build-up and less effective bristles, it doesn’t mean that it’s a complete waste.
Consider some of these ideas to put your brush to more use:
- Add it to your cleaning supplies for polishing jewelry or cleaning hard-to-reach corners
- Attach a sign to it and use it as a garden post to label your herbs and plants
- Save it for an arts-and-scraps project
- Use it as a paint stirrer or even as an interesting paintbrush
How to reduce plastic toothbrushes
While finding new purposes for your brush or turning it into a new product altogether is great, cutting back on all that plastic production in the first place is even better. It makes sense—if you want less plastic on the planet, stop making it. Instead, you can switch to a brush made of sustainably-sourced biodegradable materials, like bamboo.Bamboo is an abundant, quickly growing material that is also strong and can hold up to daily brushing. Plus, unlike its plastic competitors, the bamboo handle can completely break down in as little as a few months where your plastic brush will take around 400 years. If you would like to switch to a recyclable toothbrush that is good for the environment, try a Terra & Co. bamboo brush and go a little easier on the planet.