Help TerraCycle Find New Life for Old Toothbrushes

Toothbrush Terrain
Toothbrush Terrain. Image credit: krossbow on Flickr.

Look at your toothbrush. It’s likely made of some form of plastic, rubber, and inventive design engineering, packed into a small space. After your initial decision process, where color, teeth cleaning wizardry, and perhaps recycled content and recyclability came into play, you don’t really notice it that much anymore. It’s become part of the background.

Until now.

Now being the start of another round of winter colds, one of the preventative practices being to throw away your toothbrush and get a new one. Hang on, you know I can’t let that be how it goes!

But what else do you do? If you have a Preserve toothbrush you have some options:  Drop them off in a Gimme 5 bin, if they happen to be nearby. Send the toothbrush back in the mail. Send several #5 plastic items back to Preserve.

These are all fine and noble, but the question comes up: How many of you actually do this? If there’s no bin conveniently located, is sending one toothbrush in the mail going to have a carbon footprint that outweighs simply disposing of it? With no incentive other then your polished conscience, will you make the effort to collect and mail back a box worth of #5 plastic? And above all, does the material need to be recycled in the first place?

This has been on my mind a lot lately, and I’d like your help.

Beginning in January, we’re starting a new collection Brigade for toothbrushes, where people will earn ___ for the charity of their choice, able to be collected and sent back in a box we’ve covered the expenses on. If you have kids, you can bet they’ll make fast work of collecting their whole school’s toothbrushes if it’s going towards a cause that supports them.

Great, but first, we’d like your ideas as to what we could do with them to turn them into salable products.

The focus here is something that takes minimal processing, and that uses the product’s original form as much as possible. As in, no shredding, melting, re-forming into something new. We know you at Triple Pundit are a creative, innovative bunch, so no matter what your area of knowledge, you may have just the idea that will spark the creation of goods that will divert tons of plastic (literally) from the landfill, while saving energy doing it.

We’ve turned Oreo wrappers into kites and newspapers into pencils . So, what do you see us doing with toothbrushes?

Please share, below. Pass this article on to your other creative minded friends. And please, no idea is too crazy. Ready? Go!

Tom Szaky is the Founder and CEO of TerraCycle, Inc. a company that makes eco-revolutionary products entirely from garbage! TerraCycle, since its humble beginnings in a Princeton University dorm room, is committed to being a triple bottom line company. Tom at the ancient age of 19 learned about composting with worms. The concept of using tiny little worms to turn food waste into a powerful, organic fertilizer fascinated Tom, who was appalled by the amount of food discarded by his campus's cafeteria. Tom started TerraCycle with no investors from a friend's garage by building a Worm Gin where he could house millions of worms in a small area. He all but bankrupted himself and maxed out all his credit cards to build the machine. With the help of friends he would shovel pounds of rotten, maggot-infested food from the Princeton cafeterias. Without any money left over, Tom could not afford to buy bottles to package his fertilizer. That's when the sustainability gods smiled on Tom, who was up one night wandering the streets Princeton in search of an answer to his packaging dilemma. It just happened to be recycling night and Tom realized that millions of homes were putting billions of free bottles out on the curb once a week! That serendipitous moment set everything to follow into motion. Slowly he began to finance his infantile start up by winning business plan contests. Finally he hit the pay dirt! He won the million dollar grand prize at the Carrot Capital Business plan contest. However, the financiers of the contest wanted to move TerraCycle away from used bottles and away from it's environmental focus. Despite being on the verge of bankruptcy, Tom turned down the money. In the six years since then TerraCycle has grown to a multi-million dollar company that doubles in size every year. Still we are committed to our triple bottom line beginnings. Still making our products from other's people waste. Still based in an Urban Enterprise Zone in Trenton, NJ. Still a second chance employer. Find out how and why, here at