Are disposable plastic toothbrushes recyclable?
I grew up using disposable plastic toothbrushes.
At that time, they were ubiquitous. Beside being the only choice, they were cheap, did their job and best of all, they were disposable! Yay! Just toss it in the trash when you're done with it and it's gone forever! How convenient is that?!
Fast forward several decades (and close to 100 toothbrushes later) and one night I had a thought: if I'm throwing my used toothbrush in the garbage, then so is everyone else. That's a LOT of toothbrushes going into landfill.
National Geographic steps in here to really make me feel queazy:
“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. And if everyone around the world followed those recommendations, about 23 billion toothbrushes would get trashed annually.”
To put that into perspective, if you laid 1 billion disposable toothbrushes end to end, they would circle the earth more than four times.
So why aren't disposable plastic toothbrushes recyclable?
This is a very good question.
The first plastic toothbrushes rolled off the production line in 1938. They were probably hailed as a miracle. Before then, toothbrushes were made of different natural materials, including bone. The bristles were natural animal hair such as pig and boar.
But when Dr. West's first plastic toothbrushes with DuPont's new nylon bristles hit the market, they became the norm in no time.
And they barely changed since.
Todays toothbrushes are almost exclusively plastic, but they have become more complex in their design. Multiple plastics are fused together to give them some qualities like "ergonomic grip". I call this "marketing"—how to make something that costs pennies seem like it's worth $5 – 10.
The problem is the composite plastics are almost impossible to separate, so they can't be recycled.
The even scary part is that because plastic is so durable, pretty much every single plastic toothbrush that's ever been produced is still on the planet today and will be for centuries.
It was for these reasons that I started Nada toothbrush. My goal was to try and eliminate plastic waste by offering people a sustainable toothbrush option.
Nada's aluminum handle is both beautiful and functional. It lasts for years and means that the bulkiest part of disposable toothbrushes don't get produced, shipped and then thrown away.
Plus, we take back our used brush heads and send them to TerraCycle (a commercial recycler) to be 100% recycled. (If you're wondering how our brush heads can be recycled, it’s because ours use only one plastic and the bristles, which can be separated.)
Thanks for reading!
Unlike disposable toothbrushes, Nada doesn't collect germs, roll over or end up in landfill. Keep our hygienic aluminum handle for life and return your used brush heads to be 100% commercially recycled. Learn more here.
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