What Do You Do With An Old Toothbrush?

Three toothbrushes, photo taken in Sweden

Three toothbrushes, photo taken in Sweden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When something I use in my daily life wears out and needs replacing, I think “How do I dispose of this?  I can’t throw this in the landfill!  What else can I do with it?”  A used toothbrush is an example. Dentists recommend replacing our toothbrushes every 3 – 4 months.  Multiplied by the number of people in the world, that’s a lot of plastic toothbrushes thrown away.  According to recycling experts, 450 million of them end up in the landfill annually!  How do we avoid that?

First of all you can reuse an old toothbrush and give it a new purpose.  They make a perfect little cleaning brush once you have cleaned it thoroughly.  It’s a good idea to label it “cleaning brush” so it won’t be mistaken for a usable toothbrush.  They are useful for cleaning those hard to get at cracks and crevices, for shining up jewelry, or for cleaning the grooves in bike or chainsaw chains.   Old toothbrushes are ideal for cleaning bathroom grout or around the drain in showers and sinks.  You can even use them to remove tough stains from clothing.  Simply put a stain remover on the stain and use the toothbrush to scrub.  Toothbrushes are good for cleaning electronics like your keyboard and computer monitor, or dust from the air conditioner or from the wire-mesh of a hair dryer.  They are excellent for cleaning silver; they can get into those crevices.  Old toothbrushes are good for cleaning under your nails or for cleaning the mud or dog poop off the bottom of your shoes.  How about brushing your dog or cat’s teeth with your old toothbrush?  Art projects?  The ideas are endless!

Eventually toothbrushes are thrown away.  I buy the brand Preserve, which makes toothbrushes with 100% recycled handles and actually come in a postage-paid mailer to conveniently mail back your old one for recycling.  Another company called World Centric has created a line of compostable toothbrushes and travel cases that are made from a plant-based resin called Ingeo designed to fully compost within three to six months when sent to a commercial composting facility.  They also provide a prepaid envelope to return the old toothbrush in.  Both products are available at natural food stores, at most Whole Foods and on-line; Trader Joe’s sells Preserve.

It’s thrilling to see people and companies making progress in reducing trash.

Information compiled from www.squidoo.com,  www.wikihow.com and Cape Cod Times.

8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by amy nachman on June 19, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    you think of everything! although my dog deserves her own new toothbrush!!! i will dump oral b and buy preserve at tj’s – thanks for the tip !


  2. Posted by Pam Budner on June 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    I also keep old toothbrushes in my gardening bag. The perforated rings inside soaker hoses often get clogged with dirt and a toothbrush is the perfect tool for the job.


  3. I always use my old toothbrush as cleaning brushes. I have also started to use Monte-Bianco Toothbrushes – You buy one toothbrush and can then change the head and use the handle again and again: http://www.treehugger.com/style/monte-bianco-resource-efficient-toothbrushes.html


  4. I recycle our toothbrushes through TerraCycle. I also bought a toothbrush recently for my daughter 9not sure the brand) but you can replace the heads so it reduces the waste. Even recycling isn’t the best of the 3 R’s, can’t go without a toothbrush so this reduce is the next best thing!
    Here is the TerraCycle group I run: http://www.westfordfarmersmarket.com/upcycle.html


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