Growing up, we’ve heard a barrage of aphorisms about taking care of our health. Especially our oral health. Brush your teeth twice a day. Floss regularly. Don’t go to sleep after eating sugar. And always—always—change your toothbrush after three months. But while the last point does serve hygienic purposes, it’s not exactly the best thing for the environment. (In a National Geographic feature, Kahi Pacarro of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii notes that “it’s not uncommon to pick up” 20-100 toothbrushes during a clean-up.) For Beaconsfield, Montreal, the solution is simple: recycle your toothbrushes.
Of course, this isn’t some groundbreaking discovery. And Beaconsfield isn’t the only place in the world that has this initiative. But with plastic toothbrushes steadily becoming a significant source of waste in the environment, taking your used toothbrush to a recycling center becomes all the more consequential.
But why should we recycle toothbrushes? And why is this move by Beaconsfield so important?
A solution to the growing amount of toothbrushes in landfills
For the most part, we’ve moved on to more sustainable forms of waste management. Despite this, landfills still play a significant role in the way we throw away our trash.
It’s not hard to see why. It is, after all, the way we’ve stored our waste for the past centuries. And because most of our refuse is unrecyclable and non-biodegradable, they won’t be going anywhere any time soon.
But while they still serve a purpose, that doesn’t mean they don’t have their share of risks. Modern landfills aim to isolate the trash from the rest of the surroundings, so they never decompose. And because you need a place to bury the waste in a landfill, it isn’t a sustainable way to dispose of one’s garbage.
It’s no wonder, then, why waste reduction became a rallying cry in recent years. In 2013 Beaconsfield was noted for being “one of the biggest producers of garbage” in Montreal. Aside from its recycling centers, the city implemented a system where residents pay a garbage collection charge based on the size of their bins and the frequency of their collection.
Toothbrushes and other oral implements continued to be a source of waste, however. Residents began to place them in the inappropriate bins, so city officials decided to put a separate box for oral hygiene products.
But why should you recycle toothbrushes?
Now that we know a little about how landfills work, we know how important it is to reduce waste. Particularly if we don’t want the planet to be overrun with garbage. And with toothbrushes being a significant source of non-biodegradable waste, the importance of recycling toothbrushes become all the more evident.
Because you need to replace your toothbrushes frequently, it’s easy for them to pile over time in the garbage bin. Plastic toothbrushes are notorious for their long decomposition time, which is why they often end up in the ocean. Unfortunately, there’s still a high demand for these disposable plastics—particularly in the tourism industry, where hotels and other accommodations often give out complimentary oral hygiene products.
Thankfully, there are a few alternatives. One is to change up what the toothbrush is made of—instead of plastic, there are other brushes made from bamboo and other eco-friendly materials. The other, of course, is to recycle those toothbrushes in a recycling center, so they could be used for different products. And with the many ways we can reduce waste, the need for landfills will hopefully be a thing of the past.