How Recycled is Recycline?by Nick Aster on Wednesday, Oct 25th, 2006 ShareClick to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The Recycline Razor looks by all accounts to be a very good idea and it probably is. It’s made of 65% Stonyfield Yogurt containers and the rest is “100% Recycled“. It’s also fully recycleable provided one’s community offers #5 plastics recycling, as are the company’s other products such as toothbrushes. However, this got me thinking about a report I read once on the website of this Radius Toothbrush company which had a very articulate calculation of why it was, in fact, not worth it to recycle their products. The website is offline now, but see this space for it in the future. The gist was – the amount of fossil fuel used to send the toothbrish back to the plant to be melted down and made into a new toothbrush was actually greater than the amount used to simply make a new toothbrush and send it one way. Radius advises customers to re-use their old toothbrushes for other household purposes instead of trying to recycle them. It’s a very interesting little puzzle! My guess is that at some point economy of scale kicks in and by using, for example, Stonyfield Yogurt containers recycled in bulk for the original manufacturing of the toothbrushes, Recycline saves considerably on fossil fuel use, but we’d need many more details to be sure! Ed Note, Oct 30 – John Lively from Recycline got in touch with me (see comment below) to say that the reason the Radius calculation is no longer on the website is that it incorrectly stated that old toothbrushes from recycline would be manufactured into new toothbrushes. This is not the case and Radius agreed to remove the calculation pending something more accurate in the future. Please see John’s full note below! Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com TriplePundit.com has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place. Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis. Follow Nick Aster @nickaster 4 responses I’d be interested in seeing where the recycling and manufacturing takes place. If the recycling is in China and the manufacturing is in Mexico, sure, I can see how there’s a huge fossil fuel cost. The reason I wonder about this is because of that recent billionaire, Chinese entrepreneur that you featured, who does the recycling. So, I wonder if these tasks should be localized more to alleviate the transportation premium. This is fascinating. All the more so because I recently was told by my dentist to use a Radius toothbrush because it was best for my sensitive gums. Upon doing so, I promptly wrote them an e-mail regarding my old favorite brush, TerraDent. TerraDent allows you to replace the head regularly while keeping the bulkier part of the toothbrush (the handle) indefinitely. Radius never wrote back. Now I wonder which is the better choice. I think it might be time to AskPablo. hi PK, Can you please let me know the name of the Chinese entrepreneur you just mentioned above. Thanks, DG FROM EMAIL – 10/27/2006 Hi Nick, We saw the posting on TriplePundit about Recycline’s Preserve Razor. We’re always appreciative of consumers and folks in the industry who take a closer look at what we’re doing. We encourage dialogue and look forward to engaging you in one. We do want to clarify a few points. Most importantly, the Preserve toothbrushes and razors that consumers send back to us for recycling do not end up as new toothbrushes and razors as was incorrectly stated on the now offline Radius website. The Radius web pages that are now offline had several factual errors that we discovered. When we pointed them out to Radius, they removed the calculation. We think debate is important for our young, growing industry, but we believe it should be based on facts. To that end, we’d like to request that this sentence be changed or removed from your blog: “The gist was – the amount of fossil fuel used to send the toothbrush back to the plant to be melted down and made into a new toothbrush was actually greater than the amount used to simply make a new toothbrush and send it one way.” The point misrepresents our recycling program (we do not recycle used toothbrushes into new toothbrushes) and this claim with no formal analysis behind it should not be represented as fact. Recycline’s largest environmental coup is the manufacture of our products using recycled and sustainable materials whenever possible vs. virgin petrochemical materials. The process whereby we reprocess recycled materials to make our products has adequate economies of scale to reduce energy used as compared to the production of toothbrushes from virgin oil. Many of the more commonly recycled materials use less energy and emit less air and water pollution in their manufacture than do virgin materials. Even the oft-maligned curbside collection system has been shown to reduce air and water pollution, see http://www.recycline.com/environment/recissue.html. You will notice that Radius has introduced a toothbrush that is made partly from recycled materials. This is a step that we are happy to see a fellow environmentally inclined company take. Also, a few points on our recycling mailer. We think it is the responsibility of a company to help provide for the end-life of its products. That is why we provide a recycling mailer for our Preserve toothbrushes and razors. The mailer is especially important for the toothbrush as it is made from mixed materials – in our case 100% recycled polypropylene (#5) plastic in the handle and virgin nylon in the bristles. This mixed material makes it inappropriate to recycle in town recycling programs. Thus we provide the recycling mailer. In the case of our razor, we have developed a unique design that enables the user to remove the blade from the handle. The razor handle is then just one piece of plastic made from #5 and is suitable for recycling in towns that have programs to recycle #5 plastics. The razor and the toothbrush handle, as parts made from one material only, use less resources than a multi-material, co-injection part (razors and toothbrushes with rubber grippers, etc). When analyzing the resources used to recycle our Preserve toothbrush using our mailback program versus throwing the toothbrush into the trash, there are several stages to consider. When consumers use our mailer, the products end up, not as new toothbrushes or razors, but rather as plastic lumber that is used for things like park benches and porch decks. Depending on what part of the country from which they are sent back to us here in Massachusetts, this shipping must be compared to the shipping required to haul a trashed item to the landfill. Then, as the used product is reground and turned into a new product, a park bench, this process must be compared to the extraction and use of virgin materials to make a virgin material plastic bench. In our upcoming enewsletter, we will have a section about our mailer, including its history, where we let our consumers weigh in on its environmental value. While we have not yet done an ELCA, we will when funds support it. There are pluses and minuses for the environment to the many choices we humans make in our consumption needs. We seek in every step to see as much value as possible in the resources that we human’s consume. For example, we currently manufacture exclusively in the US because it reduces fossil fuel use involved in transport – I thought I’d mention this particularly after we noticed the vein about transportation and overseas manufacturing in the blog and comments. We also seek to minimize the emissions that our product’s manufacture and end of life have. We have been doing so for ten years and will keep working on it. Thank you, John Lively Environmental Committee Chair Comments are closed.