Why are toothbrushes so hard to recycle?

May 28, 2020 by  
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Even the remotest islands have no lack of used toothbrushes. Researchers studying  Cocos Keeling Islands  — 6 square miles of uninhabited land 1,300 miles off  Australia’s  northwest coast — found 373,000 toothbrushes among the mountains of plastic debris. Reading studies like this makes almost any thinking person wonder why we can’t recycle toothbrushes. Toothbrushes pose a problem, as no matter how much we care about the planet, most of us aren’t going to sacrifice our dental hygiene. So why is it so hard to recycle toothbrushes? Dental professionals and the American Dental Association recommend getting a new toothbrush every three to four months, or when the bristles fray. This means the average American — or at least one that follows dental advice — goes through three to four toothbrushes per year. Even if each American used only two toothbrushes annually, that’s roughly 660 million toothbrushes headed for the  landfill . Why? “Regular toothbrushes are hard to recycle because they are made from many components, including plastics derived from crude  oil , rubber and a mix of plastic and other agents,” explained Dr. Nammy Patel , DDS and author of  Age With Style: Your Guide To A Youthful Smile & Healthy Living.  “It takes the plastic toothbrush over 400 years to decompose.” Usually, the plastic handle would be the most desirable part for recycling. Nobody wants those grotty nylon bristles that spent the last several months poking between your teeth. And it takes a lot of effort to separate the bristles and the metal that keeps them in place from the  plastic handle. The  Colgate Oral Care Recycling Project  is one rare effort to recycle used dental gear. The project accepts toothpaste tubes and caps, toothbrushes, toothpaste cartons, toothbrush outer  packaging  and floss containers. Reusing your old toothbrushes Instead of recycling your toothbrush, it’s easier to find ways to reuse it. Patel suggests using your old toothbrush for coloring hair, cleaning car parts, or anything that can be accessed by the small bristles. “It can be used for cleaning mud under shoes,” she suggested. Toothbrushes are the best tools for cleaning grout on your kitchen counter or between your bathroom tiles. Just add baking soda or bleach. You can also use a dry or just slightly damp toothbrush to clean the sides of your computer  keys. It’s amazingly gross, the stuff that accumulates in a keyboard. Other places to use those tiny bristles to your advantage include cleaning grunge out of your hairbrush, scrubbing around faucets and reviving Velcro by removing the lint. Old toothbrushes even have  artistic  uses. Painters can use them for splattering paint on a canvas, or for adding texture. In another artistic application, toothbrushes are great for scrubbing crayon marks off walls. Sustainable alternatives Of course, the best way to avoid disposing of a non-recyclable item is by not buying it in the first place. “Toothbrushes made from more sustainable products are great,” said Patel. “They offer the same or better clean and are better for the environment.” Bamboo  is the most popular alternative toothbrush handle material. However, most still have nylon bristles. Some companies use compostable pig hair bristles, but this won’t be a happy solution for vegetarians. Still, the handle is the biggest part of the toothbrush, so using a bamboo toothbrush with nylon bristles is still a step in the right direction. Some companies even offer replaceable heads so you can use the same bamboo handle for years. If style is of paramount importance, check out  Bootrybe’s  pretty laser-engraved designs. You could also opt for a toothbrush that’s already been recycled. Since 2007,  Preserve  has recycled more than 80 million yogurt cups into toothbrushes. They partner with Whole Foods to get people to recycle #5 plastics, which is one of the safer yet least recycled types of plastic . And when your Preserve toothbrush gets old, you can mail it back to the company for recycling. Or ditch the plastic and go electric. “Electric toothbrushes are a better alternative than regular toothbrushes,” said Patel. “They give a great clean and they minimize the amount of waste.” She recommends eco-friendly brands like Foreo Issa and Georganics. “There are some brands like Boka brush which have activated  charcoal in its bristles to help reduce bacteria growth. Many companies also have a recycling program where you can send your toothbrush head and they will recycle it for you.” Better yet, she said, get the electric rechargeable brushes so there is no battery waste. “If you have to purchase a battery-operated one, make sure to use rechargeable batteries to decrease waste.” Some people like to further reduce waste by making their own toothpaste and mouthwash. While homemade toothpaste lacks the cavity-fighting power of fluoride, you might want to occasionally use homemade products to decrease packaging waste and save money, or just to tide you over until your next trip to the store. For a very simple and inexpensive paste, combine one teaspoon of baking soda with a little  water . + Dr. Nammy Patel Via Toothbrush Life Images via Teresa Bergen

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Why are toothbrushes so hard to recycle?

UK residents enjoying record low emissions

May 28, 2020 by  
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By now, almost everybody has heard about record low CO2 emissions brought on by  coronavirus  lockdowns. But new data shows not only that the U.K.’s emissions are the lowest they’ve been since the 1920s, but there’s reason to hope they might not shoot back up to pre-pandemic rates as soon as life returns to quasi-normal. A recent paper published in the scientific journal  Nature Climate Change examined six sectors known for their climate change contributions: electricity  and heat; surface transport; industry; home use; aviation; and public buildings and commerce. They found that surface transport was notably down, partially accounting for why the U.K. cut emissions by 31% during lockdown, compared to a global average of 17%.  “A lot of emissions in the UK come from surface transport – around 30% on average of the country’s total  emissions ,” said Professor Corinne Le Quéré, the paper’s lead author. “It makes up a bigger contribution to total emissions than the average worldwide.” Since the U.K. reached full lockdown, Quéré said, people were forced to stay home and not to drive to work. Mike Childs, Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, reminds us that our problems are far from over. “A 31% emissions drop in April is dramatic, but in the long run it won’t mean anything unless some reductions are made permanent,” Childs told HuffPost UK. “This lockdown moment is a chance to reset our carbon-guzzling economy and rebuild in a way that leaves pollution in the past, to stop climate-wrecking emissions spiking right back up to where they were before, or even higher.” Fortunately, British drivers appreciate the cleaner air and plan to permanently alter their driving style, according to a survey. In the Automobile Association’s poll of 20,000 motorists, half plan to walk more post- pandemic , and 40% aim to drive less. Twenty-five percent of respondents said they planned to work from home more, 25% intend to fly less and 20% to cycle more. The U.K. government plans to spend £250 million on improved infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. “We have all enjoyed the benefits of cleaner air during lockdown and it is gratifying that the vast majority of drivers want to do their bit to maintain the cleaner air,” said Edmund King, Automobile Association president. “ Walking  and cycling more, coupled with less driving and more working from home, could have a significant effect on both reducing congestion and maintaining cleaner air.” + Nature Climate Change Via HuffPost and BBC

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UK residents enjoying record low emissions

Raj Patel on The Value of Nothing

May 13, 2010 by  
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Raj Patel is one of the few people who has both worked at the World Bank, and been tear gassed protesting against it. An activist scholar, and author of Stuffed and Starved , Patel argues that markets are a beautiful thing, but that modern capitalism has gotten it all wrong. Patel’s new book, The Value of Nothing , aims to explain why Wall Street salaries rocket ever-skyward while 60 million Americans went hungry over Christmas.

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Raj Patel on The Value of Nothing

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