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An Angle That Makes Sense to Me

Posted Oct 21 2008 12:12am

You start toothless, and you may end toothless. But, in between, there certainly seems to be a lot of tooth brushing! And that means a lot of tossed plastic toothbrushes.

But what if a company thought through the entire manufacturing process at the point of product design, and found ways to source materials responsibly, create a quality product that met consumer needs, and planned for the recycling and reuse of the original materials into new products that would then continue the cycle? This type of thinking is called cradle-to-cradle design, and it is, frankly, brilliant.

Consider Recycline, the company that makes the Preserve toothbrush. I first heard about it on an episode of Get Fresh with Sara Snow. Turns out that many recycling centers do not recycle polypropylene (#5 plastic). Yogurt containers are made of this plastic. Well, Eric Hudson, who founded Recycline in 1996, a veritable lifetime ago in eco-awareness terms, teamed up with the visionaries at Stonyfield Farm (this is turning into Stonyfield Farm Week here at FoodShed Planet, it seems) and started recycling yogurt containers into toothbrushes. The company then pays postage for you to send them your old Preserve toothbrush, which it then recycles into plastic lumber to be used for playground equipment and park benches.

I headed out to Whole Foods to find this toothbrush, thinking, "What is the upper limit I will pay for a toothbrush?" which is a conversation, in all honesty, I've never had with myself before. But, I figured, between it being Whole Foods and it being a small eco-company possibly wanting to take advantage of eco-suckers like me, these things might be pricey.

$2.79, my friends. $2.79. A bit of a shockingly reasonable price to pay for such a brilliant product. And in fun fashion colors, as well! With a reusable storage case with ventilation holes! Even the display case is made of melted recycled toothbrushes, creating an attractive speckled look that I challenge you not to want to touch. Reminded me of melted crayons! And don't you think we need more reminders of melted crayons in today's world?

All members of my family now have Preserve toothbrushes (and I noticed they have a Preserve Jr. model, which has the National Wildlife Federation logo on it and a mention of Recycline's support of the organization). Okay, I admit, the toothbrush does bend at a weird 45-degree angle that takes a little getting used to. But thinking twice a day, every day, about recycled plastic benches to which I may one day have contributed with my toothbrush, in Victory Gardens around the world? Now, that's an angle that makes sense to me.

Recycline also has recycled razors, plus it just introduced a line of kitchenware made from recycled plastics and paper. Colanders in bright colors for just $12.99. Cutting boards made of recycled paper--now, how on earth does that work? And when's the last time you scratched your head with wonder thinking about a cutting board? No wonder Recycline recently beat out nearly 1,000 entrepreneurs to win top honors (and $100,000) in the Forbes.com "Boost Your Business" Contest.

As for #5 plastic, I checked out my county's recycling information, and yes, it does recycle #5 plastic. Many recycling programs don't. But now I wonder, what exactly does my county do with #5 plastic? Is it hooked into this program? Are there other programs? Hmmmm. I feel a field trip coming on . . .

FYI, here's a note about #5 plastic from the Stonyfield Farm website:

With polypropylene #5 plastic packaging, we use significantly less plastic than we would if our cups were HDPE #2 plastic. Some communities, however, don’t recycle #5 containers. If you are out of ways to reuse your Stonyfield Farm yogurt cups, and if #5 plastic recycling isn’t available in your area, you can send your CLEAN Stonyfield Farm cups to us, and we’ll be sure they’ll get recycled. Send them to: Stonyfield Farm, 10 Burton Drive, Londonderry, NH 03053


Know any other great cradle-to-cradle design stories? Let us know!

(And don't forget to floss.)
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