Once you've squeezed the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube, what do you do with the empty container? Do you throw it away? Can you put toothpaste tubes in recycling? Disposing of oral care products isn't as straightforward as other household items, but there are plenty of things you can do to make your oral health routine more sustainable.
Why is Plastic Recycling Important?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials that may otherwise be thrown away as trash. Plastic can take years to break down, so when not disposed of properly, plastic in landfills can make its way to local ecosystems and waterways—causing significant damage to the wildlife and the environment.
According to the EPA, landfills can receive over 27 million tons of plastic every year—taking up valuable space when the plastic can be recycled. Recycling plastic helps conserve natural resources, reduces toxic emissions into the atmosphere, and creates jobs.
When it comes to oral care products, around 20 billion toothpaste tubes are estimated to end up in landfills every year—that's a lot of waste. While some recyclable toothpaste tubes exist, not all dental care products are easily recyclable.
The Life Cycle of a Recycled Toothpaste Tube
Traditional toothpaste tubes are made from mixed plastics and aluminum layers, making them difficult for many recycling facilities to process. While you can't include many oral care products in your curbside recycling, specialized recycling plants like those used in TerraCycle's mail-back Oral Care Recycling Program exist to sort, clean, and process dental hygiene products. Here is how toothpaste container recycling typically happens:
- First, the products are sorted from non-recyclable materials.
- Next, the toothpaste tubes are shredded to break up the container's materials.
- The materials are washed and dried to get rid of any excess residue.
- Once the plastic is broken down all the way, it gets sorted and converted into pellets for use in new products.
However, you can also find eco-friendly toothpaste products that can create zero waste.
Step By Step Guide: Toothpaste Tube Recycling Process
Once you've confirmed a recycling method that accepts the materials in your toothpaste tube, prepare it for recycling with these simple steps:
- Step 1: Remove the cap.
- Step 2: Squeeze as much of the toothpaste out of the tube as possible.
- Step 3: Carefully cut the neck of the tube and cut a slit along the side.
- Step 4: Use warm water and soap to rinse out the rest of the toothpaste.
The good news for the environment is that more eco-friendly toothpaste options are available than ever. In addition to recyclable packaging, you can reduce your carbon footprint with sustainable alternatives like toothpaste tablets. Talk to a dental professional to see if there's an eco-friendly option that fits your oral health goals.