Recycling Toothbrushes

I took a page out of Beth Terry's playbook today. Beth blogs at Fake Plastic Fish and her goal of living a plastic-free life has been a big inspiration and motivation for many of the life changes that I've made in the past year. So, today I received a very nice letter from the College of Dentistry at the University where I work. It was an invitation to get my dental care there (which is free to employees who have the University health insurance) and as an additional motivator, they included a new toothbrush. Now, I knew that I would never use this toothbrush because I had already made the switch over to a non-plastic alternative. I use Radius Toothbrushes, because they are made with cellulose that is sustainably harvested, rather than petroleum-based plastic. I thought about giving the toothbrush to my husband or to someone else, but then I thought, "What would Beth do?!?" I saw this as an opportunity to share my views on our plastic problem with the Dean of the College of Dentistry.

So, I returned the toothbrush to him and enclosed a very polite letter that thanked him for the gift and then explained why I couldn't accept it: because I couldn't, in good conscious, contribute to the 50 million pounds of toothbrushes that Americans send to landfills every year. I then suggested that he explore giving out Preserve Toothbrushes instead because they are made with recycled plastic, the company will take them back and recycle them when the consumer is through using them, and the company is willing to imprint the brushes with the Dental office's name. I wrote that this would not only be a way for the College to have a positive social impact, it would provide some positive PR as well. Let's see if anything comes of it, shall we?

UPDATE (1/21/09): I received a very nice e-mail in response to my letter from the Associate Dean for Patient Care at the College of Dentistry. He says:

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Dear Courtney –
I received your letter that included a recommendation that the College of Dentistry look into toothbrushes made from recycled plastic. I am copying this e-mail to [the]director of clinics at the College of Dentistry and to [the]faculty dental hygienist who is chair of our “go green” committee. I spoke with [her] briefly and she is planning to check out the toothbrush you mentioned, as well as to initiate a conversation with Proctor and Gamble about the amount of recycled plastic in their products. I will ask that [she] keep you in the loop on what we find out.

Thank you for your suggestions.

Sincerely,
Associate Dean for Patient Care
College of Dentistry
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Not overly optimistic, I would say. But a start at least.

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