Since 1950, the world has produced more than 8.3 billion tons of plastic. About 60 percent of that plastic has ended up in either a landfill or the natural environment – in our streets, in our waters.
“Today, we produce 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year,” according to the U.N. Environment Programme. “That’s nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2018, landfills received 27 million tons of plastic. The total amount of plastics combusted was 5.6 million tons. Only about 3.1 million tons was recycled. That represents about 9 percent of plastic waste generated in the U.S.
A lot of that plastic is represented by single-use products, like plastic drinking bottles and bags. But other short-lived items integral to our daily lives contribute to that total. Let’s take plastic toothbrushes, for example.
Based on the recommendation from the American Dental Association, toothbrushes should be replaced about every three to four months or more often if the bristles become matted or frayed. Every year, an estimated 1.2 billion toothbrushes are thrown away in the U.S. alone, producing about 26,250 tons of plastic waste, equivalent to a little less than 100,000 64-gallon carts.
The best solution to plastic waste, as UNEP and other organizations point out, would be to slow the flow of plastic at its source, but we also need to improve the way we manage plastic waste. One of those ways is to increase the amount of waste that gets recycled.
In the case of toothbrushes, Recycle Brevard offers an alternative through TerraCycle. You can drop off toothbrushes, empty toothpaste tubes and dental floss containers at Recycle Brevard or visit RecyceBrevard.org to find a dropoff location near you.
With a program called Recycleware, Recycle Brevard is looking for dental offices and other sites willing to distribute postcards of the program or become a dropoff location. Participation in this program is free. Email info@RecycleBrevard.org
The first dental office to support this initiative was Cocoa Village Dentistry.
When project leader Suzanne Taylor approached Dr. Thomas Lunstrum, he was receptive and quick to embrace the idea. Cocoa Village Dentistry is now a dropoff location. Anyone is welcome to bring their dental waste to deposit in their bin. For details, visit cocoavillagedentistry.com.
Plastic seems cheap to buy, but when we approach its cost in a holistic way, we realize that plastic is a very expensive material. From production to disposal, the impact on the environment is tremendous. Any small step we can take to reduce plastic waste brings us closer to eliminating plastic from the environment, so why not start by recycling your toothbrushes?
P.S: A note on my previous article, when removing Mexican petunia from your garden, place them in the garbage, not in your yard waste bin. Yard waste will be reused, and you would not want to introduce Mexican petunia in other gardens.