Wanted - old toothbrushes for recycling at University of Portsmouth

Portsmouth’s first recycling centre for toothbrushes and other dental products opens this week as part of the University of Portsmouth’s on-going commitment to improve its environmental sustainability.

The Dental Recycling Programme is being run by the University’s Dental Academy.  It is just one of many initiatives being adopted as part of the ambitious Revolution Plastics project, which aims to transform the way we make, use and dispose of plastics.

Although a large amount of University waste is recycled, many dental products are not accepted in regular recycling centres. To overcome this, the Dental Academy is now taking part in the Phillips/Colgate – TerraCycle - Dental Care Recycling Programme, preventing dental care products from ending up in landfill.  All oral care products and packaging are sorted and separated, and then cleaned, shredded, and made into new recycled products. 

If we use one toothbrush every three months in the UK, we are disposing approximately 200 million brushes every year.

Dr Carolina Machuca Vargas, Senior Lecturer in Dental Public Health, University of Portsmouth

Dr Carolina Machuca Vargas, Senior Lecturer in Dental Public Health, from the University’s Dental Academy, explains, “Manual toothbrushes are made of polypropylene plastic and nylon. Manufacturing nylon itself creates nitrous oxide, which is a potent greenhouse gas. If we use one toothbrush every three months in the UK, we are disposing approximately 200 million brushes every year. Considering that plastic takes about 400 years to degrade, then the environmental impact is huge. 

“Evidence shows that, considering all aspects of the lifecycle of the product, the electric toothbrush has the greatest environmental impact and the most environmentally sustainable toothbrush is one that uses recycled plastic in a continuous process. Thus, this programme of collection and recycling of toothbrushes is vital, and as dental care professionals we must inform and discuss - with our patients and the wider community - sustainable options in dental healthcare products.”

During the coming weeks, labelled bins will be placed in the Academy building for students, staff and members of the public to drop-off dental products including any brand of toothpaste tubes and caps, toothbrushes, electric toothbrush heads, flossing sticks and outer packaging. 

We hope that this initiative will motivate our community to drive forward other recycling programmes in the future.

Dr Carolina Machuca Vargas, Senior Lecturer in Dental Public Health, University of Portsmouth

During the coming weeks, labelled bins will be placed in the Academy building for students, staff and members of the public to drop-off dental products including any brand of toothpaste tubes and caps, toothbrushes, electric toothbrush heads, flossing sticks and outer packaging. 

Dr Machuca Vargas says: “We hope that this initiative will motivate our community to drive forward other recycling programmes in the future. It’s great to see colleagues taking the initiative to reduce our environmental impact as part of our commitment to becoming a climate positive university by 2030.

“With the global plastics issue high on the agenda for all, the Phillips/Colgate Oral Care Recycling Programme promotes sustainability. We really encourage people to take advantage of the programme and recycle their oral care products and packaging via the programme and tell their friends and family about this new recycling initiative.”

The programme also rewards the Dental Academy with points for each kilogram of dental care products sent, which can be redeemed as financial donations to a charity or school chosen by the Academy.

The recycling bins are already in place and accessible in the waiting room of the Dental Academy, Hampshire Terrace, Portsmouth. Open to everyone Mon-Fri 8.30am - 5 pm.

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