The ADA recommends replacing toothbrushes every 3-4 months or sooner due to fraying with use. The recommended amount of toothpaste per brushing is a pea-sized amount, or 0.25 g in more exact terms. Based on these numbers, an average 6 oz (170 g) toothpaste tube would be empty after 680 uses or 340 days if the person brushes twice a day. For a family of four, that would mean an empty toothpaste tube every 85 days.
What do you do with the old toothbrush and empty toothpaste tube? Instead of sending them to landfills, bring them to the dental school or dental hygiene clinic to recycle! That’s exactly what students and patients did at Roseman University College of Dental Medicine as a part of a pilot recycling program by Colgate.
Last Fall, Colgate provided a grant for a pilot recycling program for eight dental schools and eight dental hygiene programs in the United States from September through December. Each school was provided with recycling boxes for specified oral care products and packaging and a TerraCycle account. For every pound of recycled products received, $1 is donated to a 501(c)3 non-profit organization of choice. The ASDA chapter at Roseman University was a part of the pilot program. They chose the Senhoa Foundation, a non-profit organization which supports “vulnerable persons and survivors of human trafficking by providing income-generating opportunities, social reintegration and programs for empowerment”.
The boxes were placed in the clinic and classrooms. Once they were full, the items inside were shipped to Terracycle and tracked using a free prepaid shipping label. Roseman ASDA collected the most items per student. The prize was a beautiful bench made of recycled materials in the photo below.
Following the success of the pilot program, Colgate is continuing the recycling program. This time, all dental schools and dental hygiene programs in the nation are eligible to participate. The contest began August 1, 2015 and ends May 31, 2016. Each acceptable piece of waste sent in will earn approximately $0.02. Funds may be donated to a charity of choice. The dental student group that collects the most waste per student will win a park bench made of recycled materials for their school. To participate, reach out to your Colgate Academic Manager and they will guide you through the process (click here for more resources from Terracyle).
Why participate? Instead of contributing to landfills, this program can encourage students, patients, and dental professionals to recycle while raising funds for a designated charity. As the liaison for this program last year, I learned about new ways in which dental offices are reducing their landfill contributions. A great way of promoting participation in this program is encouraging patients to bring in their used toothbrushes and empty toothpaste containers into clinic at each prophy appointment to exchange for new ones! It may increase the percentage of patient follow-up for treatment plans, which is a win-win situation for both dental students and patients.
~Elle Dinh, Roseman ’17