30 Million Toothbrushes

plastic free july recycling tips reduce waste sustainable living sustainable waste Feb 15, 2021
I've had a few conversations recently about toothbrushes and recycling toothpaste tubes so I thought I'd share exactly how simple progress can be when it comes to simple and sustainable changes.

Given that Aussies go through about 30 million toothbrushes annually (then add toothpaste tubes to that), we're talking substantial waste. And since there's only so much reducing you can do when it comes to the humble toothbrush, reusing (think cleaning) and ultimately recycling, is the next best option.

They're not something that can go into the regular recycling however TerraCycle and Colgate have teamed up and introduced a national recycling program.

Recycling plastic toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes is something I've only been doing for the past 4 or 5 months.

To make it easy for me to get started, I started collecting them in a container in the garage and then, when I had a decent stash (and I was already headed that way), I dropped them in at Biome whilst I was there to pick up some other goods. There are several places where you can post or drop off, including some local dentists. See the Biome or Flora and Fauna websites for info about their recycling options or check out TerraCycle for a full list of drop-off locations.

Whilst my husband and I just change brushes based on the usual recommendations, in my first drop off, there was an array of kids brushes since they seem more inclined for a twice daily 'toothbrush chewing' session as opposed to a twice-daily tooth brushing regime.

You might be wondering why I didn't have bamboo brushes when I'm running a business based on sustainable living? In full transparency, I want you to know that I'm not perfect. We're all doing the best we can. And that has meant we had been using both bamboo brushes as well as plastic brushes.

Hubby and I have used bamboo brushes on and off for years however had been back to plastic brushes due to lack of availability whilst travelling in 2019 and we had a few leftover plastic brushes to get through before going back to bamboo now.

When it comes to the kids, there simply wasn't much choice for kids bamboo brushes where we used to live and they were pretty expensive so they got plastic. Now we have a bit more choice, the prices are more comparable and as the kids are getting older there's a (little) bit less chewing and they last a little longer!

In the last few months, we've transitioned the kids to bamboo too and despite the initial reluctance to leave the colourful plastic brushes behind, the kids are enjoying their new brushes.

It really was a case of focusing on progress and not giving myself grief when we chose to use plastic brushes for a while.

In the spirit of focusing on progress rather than perfection, here are some options to take small (or big) steps to towards a more environmentally friendly option for toothbrushes and toothpaste.
  • Baby step: pop your spent plastic toothbrushes aside to recycle through TerraCycle (they also take toothpaste tubes and floss containers)
  • Bigger step: try a bamboo toothbrush and dispose in landfill. It will still break down, just more slowly, leaving only the bristles behind.
  • Sustainability master: Use a bamboo brush, compost the handle and dispose of the bristles within another plastic container headed for recycling.
I hope that gives you some ideas on how you can break down a simple swap into really small, manageable steps to sustainable living.

Let me know if that's helpful, I'd love to hear from you.
*Some of the links may include an affiliate partnership where I may get a commission at no extra cost to you. 

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