300 million toothpaste tubes go to landfill

Why not switch to a plastic-free alternative?

Enough plastic waste to circle the globe twice is the annual result of us cleaning our teeth with toothpaste from tubes that can’t be recycled.

With the global toothpaste industry worth tens of billions per year, one waste and recycling company thinks it’s high time its house was put in order.

The UK’s waste management company BusinessWaste.co.uk is concerned about the volume of plastic waste being thrown away due to toothpaste tubes and are calling for plastic free alternatives.

“Toothpaste is an essential hygiene item that people will always buy” says Mark Hall, company spokesman, “however the problem is the packaging; does it really need to come in a plastic tube?”

Brushing up on the facts

We use 300 million tubes of toothpaste every year. Spread end-to-end that’s about 75,000 kilometres of plastic, almost twice around the world. And that’s just users in the UK.

The problem is that they are usually made of different types of plastics, and many brands contain a metal layer inside the tube which isn’t easy to separate.

“A lot of toothpaste tubes have that layer of aluminium in to keep them fresh, but this makes it a recycling nightmare,” says spokesman Mark Hall, “so unfortunately most tubes will end up at a landfill.”

This worries BusinessWaste.co.uk, as on average, it takes 500 years for a toothpaste tube to fully biodegrade in landfill, meaning that every tube you have used in your lifetime could still be out there in a big hole in the ground.

Fortunately, pump-action toothpaste tubes can be easier to recycle, says Hall, but you will still need to check with your local council to see if they can be collected.

Not only are plastic toothpaste tubes bad for the environment, there’s a high chance you might not be getting your money’s worth with up to 10% of the product remaining when you think it’s empty.

“Manufacturers do this on purpose,” says spokesman Mark Hall, “it’s all designed to make you buy a replacement tube sooner.”

“Plastic toothpaste tubes aren’t beneficial for the earth or your value for money.”

Plastic-free solutions

With people growing more concerned about their plastic footprint, many companies are inventing clever solutions to reduce the amount of plastic we throw away, and this includes dental hygiene.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the best plastic-free toothpaste alternatives for you to sink your teeth into.

Glass Jars of toothpaste – Many zero waste shops now stock variants on this, either in a powder, or as regular toothpaste in glass jars. The jars can then be reused or recycled.

Toothpaste tablets – These can often just be popped in your mouth and crunched up like a sweet and then continue to brush like normal for pearly white teeth.

Solid toothpaste – You can buy solid toothpaste either on a stick that you apply to your teeth, or as a bar, then brush as usual.

Make your own at home – many websites offer recipes for making your own toothpaste, often including baking soda and coconut oil.

“While you’re at it, why not invest in a bamboo toothbrush or recyclable heads for your electric toothbrush?” says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesman Mark Hall.

But if making the change to a plastic-free alternative is a bit much, one toothpaste brand is going the extra mile to reduce the amount of plastic tubes heading to landfill.

Leading brand Colgate have launched plastic-free initiatives, including a new vegan friendly toothpaste that comes in recyclable packaging which is made from the same material as milk bottles.

Colgate have also become part of the Terracycle scheme, where you can take your empty toothpaste tubes and plastic brushes to collection points for specialised recycling, and they can be turned into new items such as park benches.

“As Colgate brush up the competition, one thing’s for sure,” says Hall, “we all need to step up and do our bit to reduce toothpaste tubes going to landfill.”

“Let’s stop filling the earth’s cavities with dental plastic waste.”

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