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Can You Recycle Your Toothbrush?

50 Million Pounds of Toothbrushes Go To U.S. Landfills Annually

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Three toothbrushes and toothpaste
Daniel Allan/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
Dear EarthTalk: Are there any toothbrushes that are recyclable? Emily Sacchetti, Ellicott City, MD

Small as they are, tossed toothbrushes certainly do create a lot of waste. Indeed, some 50 million pounds of them are tossed into America’s landfills each year. If we followed our dentist’s recommendations and replaced our toothbrushes every three months, we'd be throwing even more of them away.

Fortunately there are some greener-friendly alternatives, most available at natural food retailers or, if not, online at the companies’ websites.

Toothbrush Recycling
The handle of a Recycline Preserve toothbrush, designed by dentists, is made out of polypropylene plastic that has been recycled from used Stonyfield Yogurt cups. And when a Preserve toothbrush reaches the end of its effective life, consumers can either put it out on the curb in the blue bin with other recyclables (if your community offers #5 plastics recycling), or send it back to Recycline in a postage-paid envelope supplied to you with your purchase. It will then likely be reborn again as raw material for a picnic table, deck, boardwalk or other durable long-lasting product.

Toothbrushes with Replaceable Heads
Another wise eco-choice is the Terradent line of toothbrushes from Eco-Dent. These innovative toothbrushes have replaceable heads, so that once the bristles have worn out, consumers can retain the toothbrush handle and just snap on a new head, thus minimizing waste.

Sustainable Toothbrushes
Meanwhile, Radius offers stylish recyclable toothbrushes that are made not from plastic at all but from naturally occurring cellulose derived from sustainable yield forests. Beyond its standard toothbrush line, the company also sells a battery-powered electric “Intelligent Toothbrush” that uses replaceable heads to reduce environmental impact. And the company will take back the handle for recycling once the battery has worn out, usually after about 18 months.

Toothbrush Subscriptions
For those stuck on their favorite mass-market toothbrush brands, the online retail website Toothbrush Express offers a toothbrush recycling program similar to Recycline's. Consumers can sign up to receive new toothbrushes from Toothbrush Express at predefined intervals ranging from monthly to semi-annually. And for only a few dollars extra, the company will include a postage-paid mailer inside each shipment for consumers to use to send their old toothbrushes back for recycling.

Toothbrushes Reborn
Don't want to bother sending your toothbrushes back? HGTV's crafts guru Carol Duvall recommends making kids’ bracelets out of old toothbrushes instead of sending them to the landfill. After about a minute in boiling water, a toothbrush with its bristles removed can be re-shaped accordingly by wrapping it around a small jar and then allowing it to cool. Full instructions are available on the HGTV website.

GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit it at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/thisweek/, or e-mail: earthtalk@emagazine.com.

EarthTalk is a regular feature of E/The Environmental Magazine. Selected EarthTalk columns are reprinted on About Environmental Issues by permission of the editors of E.

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