Plastic waste from dental hygiene products, mainly toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes, can be reduced by creating public awareness campaigns that encourage the use of plastic-free dental care alternatives.
TARGET USERS: Individuals, Businesses, Industry, Government
KEY CONSIDERATIONS: Public awareness campaigns are difficult to measure, though research suggests that city-lead public education and community engagement initiatives are effective mechanisms for changing consumer behavior.
Oral care products are designed and manufactured to last forever, yet households will throw away billions of toothpaste tubes and toothbrushes monthly, contributing tons of plastic to the waste stream and leaving harsh chemical residues in our environment (source: 1 Million Women).
Innovative companies now offer plastic-free dental hygiene alternatives including tubeless toothpaste products and bamboo toothbrushes. Bite, for example, offers tube-free oral care tablets that come in glass jars and act in the same way that toothpaste does to clean your teeth and freshen your breath. Other plastic-free toothpaste innovators include: Unpaste, DentTabs and Crush & Brush, among others.
When cities inform citizens of the damage the disposal of plastic dental hygiene products have on our planet, especially on our ocean, and offer them plastic-free alternatives, people will make better choices. The City of Seattle, Washington had great success by partnering with the US Environmental Protection Agency's "WaterSense" program, informing citizens on the importance of water conservation within the household and offering free low-flow showerheads to its citizens. The result was a reduction in water use throughout Seattle. This same approach can be used to reduce plastic: inform, engage and empower people to make better, plastic-free choices for our shared environment.
In addition to providing the public with education on the alternatives to plastic dental hygiene products, cities can ban their use altogether, deeming them "unnecessary plastics". The basic idea is that a plastic product is deemed unnecessary if it only serves a one-way usage/purpose and/or is not bio-degradable (source: change.org). Toothbrushes and toothpaste containers do not necessarily have to be made of plastic and are in fact widely available in other materials.
Ahead of a beach clean in Anglesey, the first local authority in Wales to be given plastic free status, Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government Hannah Blythyn said on 30 July 2020, she wanted to hear from the people of Wales on how the country can tackle the plastic waste problem. This comes after the UK government set out plans to ban plastic straws, cotton buds and drinks stirrers in England, due to come into force in October 2020 after being pushed back due to the pandemic. If the proposals are implemented, a range of single use, hard to recycle and commonly littered plastic items, such as straws, cotton buds, polystyrene food and drinks containers would be banned, subject to any exemptions, from autumn 2021. See https://gov.wales/single-use-plastics-be-banned-wales for more information.
See also the National Geographic's "How your toothbrush became a part of the plastic crisis at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/06/story-of-plastic-toothbrushes/
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