Change Your Toothbrush, Change the World

Plastic toothbrushes in a replica recycle trash bin on white background

Let’s Honor Earth Day/Week/Month by Considering Toothbrush Recycling Options to Help Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Dental Hygiene

April is Earth Month, and that got us thinking about the legacy we leave. We usually think about the legacy of healthy patients, clean teeth, and confident smiles. But it didn’t take us long to realize that our good home dental hygiene habits also have some unintended consequences. 

Did you ever stop to think about what happens to your old toothbrushes, empty toothpaste tubes, floss containers, and other packaging when you throw them away? We did, and the answer was pretty shocking.

The Truth About Most Home Dental Care Products

OK, we’ll give it to you straight. There are a lot of old toothbrushes out there. But before we say more, we want to make sure you know that doesn’t change the best practice of using these products regularly and changing your toothbrush every three months. You should still do that. But after you learn more, you might want to think differently about what you do with them when you’re done.

Here’s the dirty little secret. “There are billions of toothbrushes used and discarded every year,” according to researchers at Trinity College Dublin as quoted in ScienceDaily’s, “Researchers ask: how sustainable is your toothbrush?”

A June 2019 article in National Geographic, How Your Toothbrush Became Part of the Plastic Crisis, explains “The American Dental Association suggests that everyone replace their toothbrushes every three or four months. At that rate, brushers in the U.S. alone would go through over one billion toothbrushes each year… Many toothbrushes are unrecyclable because the composite plastics most are now made of are difficult, if not impossible, to break apart efficiently.”

And that’s just the plastic toothbrushes. Much of the packaging of common dental care products is difficult or impossible to recycle, and doesn’t biodegrade. So that’s the bad news.

The Good News About Toothbrush Recycling and Other Sustainable Options

The good news is that people and companies have started to notice, and there are some great options that you can explore with your family to help do your part in protecting the environment while still protecting your teeth! Here are the top options we uncovered:

Alternatives to Plastic Toothbrushes

The easiest of the options is to look for alternatives to plastic toothbrushes. Many popular retailers offer these more sustainable options:

  1. A toothbrush with a replaceable head, so you can keep the handle for much longer.
  2. A toothbrush made from more sustainable material like bamboo. There are many good ones!

Toothbrush Recycling Programs

This requires a bit more work, but not much when you consider the difference it will make! We found three readily available programs:

  1. Colgate® Oral Care Recycling Program: TerraCycle® and Colgate® have partnered to create a free national recycling program for all brands of used or empty oral care products and packaging.
  2. Crest and Oral-B “Recycle On Us” Program: The free Recycle on Us program helps tackle oral care waste like used toothbrushes, brush heads, toothpaste tubes, and dental floss, not processed through traditional recycling.
  3. Other toothbrush manufacturers: There are some great programs that offer points and discounts in exchange for sending in your old toothbrushes. A simple internet search will reveal a number of good options.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. We recommend doing a little research to find a program that works for your family. It could be a fun and rewarding project for your kids to manage!

Sustainable Dental Care on Earth Day and Every Day

Whether it’s April 22, the rest of that week, the whole month of April, or any given day, thinking about our impact – or footprint – on the environment matters. But so does your health! We challenge our patients and ourselves to establish sustainable, healthy habits for dental care and the unintended consequences of related waste. That’s a legacy we can all share proudly.

We’d love to hear if your family finds a sustainable alternative that works for you at your next visit, or anytime you want to call. You can contact us anytime. 

To schedule your visit now, fill out this form, or call our office at (708) 448-7588.

Change Your Toothbrush, Change the World was last modified: April 20th, 2021 by Palos Heights Family Dental