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Help TerraCycle Find New Life for Old Toothbrushes

Tom Szaky | Monday November 2nd, 2009 | 14 Comments

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!


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  • ritaserse

    By the way

  • Ryan Mickle

    What about molding a dozen toothbrushes together to form a single brush for household cleaning, etc.?

  • Jennifer

    cut off the heads and use the handles for garden stakes, or plant name plates (“thyme”, “mint”, etc.)

    use handles to make an interesting mobile, or wind chime

    tie handles together to make an interesting garden border or fence

    attach the brush heads to a dog chew toy. doggie chews and gets teeth brushed at same time. (oh wait, these are used brushes? maybe not…)

    use handles for bird perches in a feeder or bird house.

  • Jeff

    Use the toothbrush handles to make complete bird houses, roofed with other recycled plastic.

  • pam

    cut the brushes off and use the handles as a lego type builing tool for children

    cut the heads off and color co-ordinate and use as math tools for children

    cut the heads off and use as “woven tile designs” on table tops

    cut the heads off.glue together,put wheels on the bottom for plant stands

    cut the heads off glue together and use as foot scrapers at the front door

    cut the heads off and invent a game

  • http://www.ecojoekits.com Cindy Lin

    We actually pretty much keep our old toothbrushes forever. They are great for household cleaning and can get into creases that a regular sponge or cleaning rag will miss.

  • Nick Aster

    I keep ‘em around for a while – work great for cleaning bike chains, and other little mechanical things.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eMarv Marvin Corea

    I also keep some around, but with 6 people in the family, they tend to pile up quickly. :)

    How about creating storage containers?

  • Jennifer Cabral

    What about making pens out of them? Cut out the heads, make a hole, insert the thin ink container into it?

  • brr

    brrr

  • Guest

    I usually burn them in my back yard; you can duct tape a bunch of them around a metal pole, stick it in the ground, and now you have an instant tiki torch. I find it really keeps the bugs away.

  • jackvermillion

    I usually burn them in my back yard. If you take a bunch of them and duct tape them to a metal pole and stick it in the ground they make a nice tiki torch. I find it really helps keep the bugs away.

  • Guest

    I usually burn them in my back yard; you can duct tape a bunch of them around a metal pole, stick it in the ground, and now you have an instant tiki torch. I find it really keeps the bugs away.

  • jackvermillion

    I usually burn them in my back yard. If you take a bunch of them and duct tape them to a metal pole and stick it in the ground they make a nice tiki torch. I find it really helps keep the bugs away.