Resource Use

Colgate launches UK recycling service for toothpaste tubes and toothbrushes

Toothpaste and toothbrush lying on a towelToothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and more could now be recycled in the UK after Colgate has announced a new programme in partnership with TerraCycle.

Oral care products have long been a bugbear of the zero waste world. Most manual toothbrushes are made of plastic and, if we follow the advice of our dentists, should be replaced every three months – meaning in the UK alone, that’s a potential 264 million brushes thrown away every year.

And though there are alternatives – the home-compostable bamboo toothbrush is growing in popularity – these are certainly not the most readily available, nor the cheapest, option on the market. Even these options often still have nylon bristles just like the standard toothbrushes.

Then there’s the question of toothpaste, which is most commonly packaged in squeezy plastic tubes, sometimes lined with aluminium or an aluminium-plastic composite. Hard toothpaste tubes are easier to recycle, but they can be fiddly and time-consuming to clean out – and even then, not all councils accept them. True zero waste pioneers might go for homemade toothpastes, but for many, the simplest option is continuing to buy those products that end up in the bin.

Acknowledging the problems caused by many oral care products, Colgate’s new, nationwide recycling programme will be accepting any brand of toothbrush, toothpaste tubes and caps, toothbrush outer packaging, electric and battery toothbrush heads and toothpaste cartons.

Individuals, schools, charities, local authorities and companies are all able to get involved, simply by making an account with recycling company TerraCycle and signing up to the programme. People can then download a free shipping label, and collect and send their used items to TerraCycle, which will sort the materials and shred and melt the plastics into pellets for use in new plastic products.

The accepted items in the Colgate recycling scheme
The accepted items in the Colgate recycling scheme
Since the launch of the UK programme at 9am yesterday (1 November), around 350 organisations have already signed up to create public collection points, and TerraCycle says it will most likely be extending the number of spots available to around 1,000. Those not keen to set up a public collection point or drop their waste off at these locations can sign on as a private collector, meaning they can send their waste directly from home.

A unique element of the programme is that users are able to contribute to charity at the same time as recycling their items. For each shipment of waste over 200 grams, the sender will receive TerraCycle points, which can then be redeemed to the charity, non-profit or school of the sender’s choice. One kilogramme of waste will earn 100 points, worth £1 – so the larger the shipment, the greater the reward, making it beneficial for large organisations and councils to sign up and create community collection points.

TerraCycle, which launched in the UK in 2009, has set up a wide range of free recycling programmes for difficult to process items such as coffee pods, baby food pouches, cigarette waste and biros. All the programmes are funded by companies and brands looking to improve their environmental footprint by recycling their products at end-of-life.

TerraCycle states that more than 1,956,000 individuals and organisations across the UK have signed up so far, collectively diverting over 48 million items of packaging waste from landfill (around the weight of a jumbo jet) while earning over £664,000 for schools, charities and non-profit organisations.

Commenting on the new oral care programme, Laure Cucuron, General Manager of TerraCycle Europe, said: “Oral care products are used by all of us each and every day, so it’s one of the most frequently asked about types of products that consumers tell us they want to be able to recycle.  So, we’re delighted to partner with Colgate to launch the Colgate Oral Care Recycling Programme which now enables everyone in the UK to recycle their oral care waste of any brand.”

Philip Durocher, General Manager at Colgate UK, added: “We really encourage people to take advantage of the programme and recycle their oral care products and packaging via the programme and tell their friends and family about this new recycling initiative.”

TerraCycle has already set up a similar scheme in the United States, which claims to have raised over $70,000 (£53,730) for charity. This scheme is currently not accepting new participants – so interested parties in the UK might want to sign up quickly.

For more information, or to sign up, visit the TerraCycle website.