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Three hundred million toothpaste tubes go to landfill

As the global toothpaste industry is worth tens of billions per year, one waste and recycling company thinks it is time for a change. (Image: AmyWilliamsPhotography/Shutterstock)


Sun. 4. April 2021


YORK, UK: Enough plastic waste to circle the globe twice is the annual result of the current population cleaning their teeth with toothpaste from tubes that cannot be recycled. The UK waste management company BusinessWaste.co.uk is concerned about the volume of plastic waste being thrown away owing to toothpaste tubes and is calling for plastic-free alternatives.

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

Brushing up on the facts

UK residents alone use 300 million tubes of toothpaste every year. Spread end to end that is about 75,000 km of plastic, enough to circle the world twice. The problem is that they are usually made of different types of plastic, and many brands contain a metal layer inside the tube which is not easy to separate from the plastic. “A lot of toothpaste tubes have that layer of aluminium in to keep them fresh, but this makes it a recycling nightmare,” Hall explained, “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. Fortunately, pump-action toothpaste tubes can be easier to recycle, said Hall, but this still depends on whether the local council will collect them.

Not only are plastic toothpaste tubes bad for the environment, but also there is a high chance that consumers are not getting their money’s worth, as up to 10% of the product remains in the tube when it actually appears to be empty. “Manufacturers do this on purpose,” said Hall, “It is all designed to make users buy a replacement tube sooner. Plastic toothpaste tubes aren’t beneficial for the earth or your value for money.”

Plastic-free solutions

As people are growing more concerned about their plastic footprint, many companies are inventing clever solutions to reduce the amount of plastic we throw away, and these include companies providing dental hygiene products. The options are varied and range from glass jars of toothpaste (either in powder, tablet or regular paste form) or solid toothpaste as bars or sticks. Alternatively, the internet offers many recipes and instructions for homemade toothpaste. Finally, Hall suggested exploring the option of investing in a bamboo toothbrush or in recyclable heads for an electric toothbrush.

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