Monday, September 29, 2008

A Brilliant Smile

Every morning when I stumble into the bathroom and brush my teeth, my only concern is waking up (oh to be able to run back to a warm, comfortable bed). I don't think about the fact that my toothbrush is made of plastic or that in a lifetime, most people will go through over 1000 toothbrushes. Nor do I think about the fact that 50 million pounds of toothbrushes end up in US landfills each year.

Plastic toothbrushes in landfills are, all by themselves, a concern. Plastic anything in a landfill is a real problem. But there's more. Did you know that every year approximately 14 billion pounds of trash are dumped into the ocean ... a large percentage of which is plastic? In an article entitled "Trashed", Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation states, "... I now believe plastic debris to be the most common surface feature of the world's oceans. Because 40 percent of the oceans are classified as subtropical gyres, a fourth of the planet's surface area has become an accumulator of floating plastic debris."

Walk any beach and you're sure to see some plastic. Go out on a boat and you'll probably see some floating plastic. But, besides being an unsightly mess, what are the consequences of plastic in our oceans? Plastic is not biodegradable. It does, however, break down physically ... to very small particles. We're talking the size of a fish egg ... and even particles as small as the diameter of a human hair. These tiny particles of plastic persist in our environment for years ... maybe forever.

Perhaps at this point you're saying ... well ... so what ... it's now the size of sand. But guess what ... fish are consuming it ... and it's lethal. And ... there is now a real concern that it's getting into our food chain. Remember the warning awhile back about putting plastic water bottles in the freezer and how toxins leach out of the plastic into the water causing all kinds of health problems? Well ... those toxins are now leaching out into the ocean waters ... and into marine animals ... and plants ... and into our diets. Definitely not good!

So how does all this relate to my toothbrush? Well, plastic ends up in the oceans in many different ways. Recreational boaters, merchant ships, the military, garbage barges and our sewer systems all contribute. Some of the biggest culprits are plastic manufacturers. They use small plastic pellets in their manufacturing process and a lot of these pellets have been found in ocean waters.

So here's how it all relates to my toothbrush. If I don't buy plastic toothbrushes (demand), the manufacturers won't make as many of them (supply) which means they'll require less plastic pellets which means that there will be less opportunity for those pellets to find their way to the ocean. Whew ... we got there!

All of this is to say ... there is a better way. Instead of buying the standard plastic toothbrush, buy an Eco-friendly version from a health store. One can also buy them online through a company called Recyline. Another idea ... buy a toothbrush with a replaceable head ... yes, it's made of plastic but the body is reusable ... for a long time ... and much less plastic will get tossed out every 3 months (the recommended amount of time after which one should replace their toothbrush).

Who knew that being mindful with a toothbrush could help the world's oceans? Now that's cause for a brilliant smile!

As always ... I'd love to hear from you!


  1. I know about the plastic problem. Saw a documentary on TV about the sea of plastic floating around in the Pacific Ocean--horrible! Let's all start right here with our plastic toothbrush and follow up by reducing plastic shopping bags. Let's discover new ways to start reducing our dependancy on plastics.
    Thanks for dropping by my blog and your kind comments.

  2. Very interesting. Will definetly forward this to my dentist! As for me I use the Sonic toothbrush thingy. Plus can we not recycle our old toothbrushes? I mean if they are made of plastic anyway why can they not be recycled? Just my thoughts!

  3. Plastic is commonly use any where around the world. Problem is, people don't really care that plastic can't be biodegradable! All we need to do is massive campaigns about it.



  4. Nana net ... Thanks for asking about recycling toothbrushes. I did a little research on recycling the standard type toothbrush. There's a problem with recycling them because the bristles are made of a different material ... usually nylon. So, in order to recycle them, the bristles would somehow have to be separated from the handles. Since this isn't cost effective, they usually just end up in landfills.

    Here's a site that lists companies who offer recycled and recyclable toothbrushes ... they also offer ideas for things to do with brushes once they are at the end of their life.

    There are several problems with any kind of plastic: 1) It's expensive to recycle plastic and not all plastic can be recycled. 2) Manufacturers of plastic products are among the biggest polluters of the ocean. If we use less of it, manufacturers won't need to make as much ... hence, the oceans will be cleaner. 3) Many plastic products are combined to other materials, rendering them non-recyclable. 4) Plastic does not bio-degrade.

    Thanks, again, for asking ... digging into it further taught me a lot.

  5. Wow, I never thought of toothbrushes like that. It's something that everybody (hopefully) uses, but I never realized how much damage is being done because of disposed-of toothbrushes.

    I'm going to start recycling them somehow.
    Thanks :)

  6. Gee, I knew plastic was a huge problem, but I didn't realise just how bad it's got, nor have I given much thought to my toothbrush before, even though I actively try to reduce my plastic use. Thanks for the Recycline link.

    Switching from disposable razors to one with changeable blades is also another simple way to reduce the amount of plastic we send to landfill.

  7. Wow, I didn't really think about this before. The plastic tool we use to brush the disgusting food particles from our germ-infested mouth, we do just freely pitch it in the trash without thinking twice. The results of the bigger picture is very scary. Thanks for posting and spreading the awareness.


  8. Wow, I never really thought about the big picture with us throwing away our plastic toothbrushes. Very damaging and scary. Thanks for posting and spreading the awareness.


  9. I wish that the day will come when we can smile without feeling guilty for dumping the earth with tons of toothbrushes. Actually, it's not only toothbrushes nor plastic products that damage our environment. Whenever we use papers and wood products, we denude the forest. It's a choice between reducing non-biodegradable materials and saving the trees. Either which way, we leave indelible footprints in the face of mother earth.

    Thanks for dropping by my blog and leaving a heart warming comment.

  10. Thanks for the update to my question. Will check out the link. Have a good afternoon and keep on blogging away with more great stuff!

    Nana Net

  11. Learn something new every day. Thanks for the information and for keeping things green. ;)

  12. The humble toothbrush - enemy of the planet. Wow, an eye opener.