How many tubes of toothpaste did you use last year? Where do you think those tubes are today? We rarely consider the environment when choosing toothpaste. We are interested in the flavor and the benefits the brand of oral care will provide us. But the plastic packaging and the toothpaste inside of it will end up in the environment, and neither of them is sustainable.
Toothpaste tubes are made of plastic with a metal layer, and every tube that you have already used is probably still out there in a landfill. They will look much the same because it takes an estimated 450 years for them to decompose and become microplastics.
Multiply that by everyone on the planet that uses toothpaste from a plastic tube and you can begin to see the enormity of the problem. Simply practising good oral hygiene is harming our planet. That is if you’re still purchasing toothpaste in plastic tubes.
Unfortunately, the packaging of the toothpaste tubes is not recyclable. Why not? Because it is often made with a combination of different plastics and a thin layer of aluminum. In addition to the mix of materials, product residue is difficult to get out of the tubes. It makes the used toothpaste tubes difficult to impossible to recycle. Most curbside recycling pickup programs refuse to accept the tubes.
Toothpaste most of the time contains toxic ingredients, it’s what makes them work as promised. We never gave it much thought in the past since we don’t swallow the toxic ingredients, but they can be absorbed through the lining of the mouth and cause health problems.
And even if the toxic ingredients don’t cause detriment to your health, what you spit down the sink will eventually end up somewhere in our oceans or in our water system and cause harm:
- Parabens is a preservative which has the property of mimicking oestrogen and interfering with hormone functions, between other effects.
- Triclosan is a pesticide that’s used as an antibacterial agent in toothpaste to help fight plaque and gingivitis.
- Saccharin is a petroleum-based sugar substitute used to sweeten the flavor of toothpaste has been linked to some cancers.
And the list of toxic ingredients continue: Carrageenan, Aspartame, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Propylene Glycol.
The good news is that Terracycle started a recycling program with Colgate for all brands of used or empty oral care products and packaging. You can see how it works on their website and check if it is available in your city.
However, they are available only in a few countries, and to make the system worth it, is necessary to find more companies to buy the recycled material. Besides the packaging pollution, most commercial toothpaste brands are still using toxic ingredients on the toothpaste.
Things you can do
Make a few small changes to your oral care routine and to be more sustainable while keeping your teeth and gums healthy.
- Use an all-natural toothpaste packaged in a glass container or paper packaging.
- Try teeth cleaning tabs or powder.
- Make your own toothpaste with a few base ingredients like baking soda and peppermint oil.