The oral care industry has a bit of a negative reputation when it comes to the environment – partly because it involves so much plastic, from toothbrushes to floss containers. In addition to alternatives being available, such as bamboo toothbrushes, brands such as Colgate have upped their game to ensure they have less impact on the planet. Recycling toothbrushes is possible – it is just not quite as convenient as the standard curbside collection yet, you need to take your items to a designated drop-off point or send them by post. Here we will take a closer look at the alternatives to plastic toothbrushes and how they compare in terms of recyclability.
Firstly, what are toothbrushes made of?
Most toothbrushes are molded from plastic (usually polypropylene or polyethylene). Nylon, another type of plastic, is used for the bristles. Toothbrushes, obviously, don’t last forever so the need to continuously replace them with yet more plastic every few months leads to a lot of waste. The environmental impact of producing the new plastics is huge – both in terms of production and disposal. All the plastic toothbrushes that you have ever used will still be in existence now, in some form. Plastic creates havoc due to not having the ability to biodegrade.
However, as consumers become more pro-active in preserving the environment, other alternatives have been developed. The bamboo toothbrush is the most popular plastic-alternative currently. And it is clear why – bamboo toothbrushes are compostable (apart from the nylon bristles), very hygienic and bamboo grows really quickly too.
Another type of brush has also come onto the market that has been popular with consumers wanting to cut down on their plastic use. Barnabys Brushes have incorporated the use of a stainless-steel handle into their eco-friendly toothbrush – the toothbrush head is a replaceable bamboo brush attachment. Great for the environment, and it looks great too. Go check them out!
So, can you recycle plastic toothbrushes?
Although it was a no-no for a long time, plastic toothbrushes can now be recycled. Colgate have teamed up with TerraCycle to make it super simple to recycle your toothbrushes and other oral health related items such as floss containers, toothpaste tubes and caps. And even better news – they don’t need to be Colgate branded brushes or waste. All brands are accepted.
Either drop-off your items at a designated spot in your town or city. Or create an account with TerraCycle and when you have a box full of permitted items you can send them in using a prepaid shipping label. It literally couldn’t be easier – unless you have printer issues like me…
Can you recycle bamboo toothbrushes?
Bamboo toothbrushes can be recycled (sort of) – but in a different way to the plastic ones. Bamboo is biodegradable and can be composted at home, but it will take up to a year to do so fully. Make sure you remove the bristles too. These tend to be made from nylon, a synthetic material, and will not breakdown in the same way as a natural material like bamboo. Some pliers and a slight rolling action should get them out in no time at all!
If you do not have a home compost pile – or the patience to wait many months for the end compost product – you can pop them in your yard waste (also known as garden debris/garden waste) curbside collection. This waste usually ends up recycled into a compost or mulch.
As with all recycling, it is important to note that facilities, rules and regulations vary significantly from country to country and even city to city. And technology is constantly changing too. If in doubt, always check with your local authority to check the state of play before adding anything to the curbside collection.
Other uses for old toothbrushes
So, you are unable to get to a drop-off point or send in your old toothbrush to the Colgate recycling program. Or you have a bamboo toothbrush but no compost pile and no access to a yard waste facility in your area. With no other options, you have to stick the toothbrush in the trash, right? Hold up! There are a few other alternatives to divert it from landfill a little longer.
You can never have enough brushes when it comes to cleaning! From the stained bathroom grout to the hard-to-reach places, toothbrushes work brilliantly. People often think that living in a more eco-friendly way will cost you a lot more money – the truth is, it can actually save you money too. This is the perfect example.
If you have enough brushes for the more intricate cleaning tasks at home, why not get creative? Use the brushes to create a splatter-effect in your paintings or even add texture to your pottery. You’ll find plenty of ideas on Pinterest.com! Incorporating re-usable items when doing arts and crafts with the kids is a great way to open the conversation about sustainability too. It’s never too early, after all.
The bottom line
Colgate, along with TerraCycle, have changed to landscape of oral care product recycling. It could not be easier, with multiple drop-off points being available in many cities and a postal option available too. Recycling is great but producing plastic to begin with causes a lot of stress on the environment. Opting for a plastic-free toothbrush, such as bamboo, and recycling it in the yard waste bin provides the best of both worlds! If you need any further convincing on making the switch away from plastic toothbrushes, check this out.