Recycling Mystery: Toothbrushes & Toothpaste Tubes


Can I recycle oral care products locally?

Through the Terracycle Oral Care Brigade, consumers can fill a box with toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and other bathroom leftovers and mail it back to Terracycle for recycling. For each item mailed back, you'll receive two Terracycle points - which can be redeemed for cash donations to the school or charity of your choice.

Theoretically, you can also recycle toothpaste tubes through curbside or drop-off programs in your area, as long as you clean and prepare them yourself first. The only trouble is that it can be difficult to determine what kind of material your toohpaste tube is made from, making it tough to tell whether or not your town accepts the material for recycling.

Toothpaste tubes are typically made from plastic #4, aluminum or a plastic-aluminum composite. Generally, plastic #4 and aluminum tubes will be the easiest to recycle locally. Before trying to recycle your tubes, do a bit of research on your favorite brand’s Website. Many companies will tell consumers what their product packaging is made from to make recycling easier.

After you've tracked down the correct material, clean out your tubes, and use Earth911 to find recycling solutions in your area. Please note that not all recyclers that accept aluminum or plastic #4 for recycling will be able to process toothpaste tubes. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you call local recyclers first before tossing tubes in a curbside bin or taking them to a drop-off location, even if they are clean.

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To prepare your tubes, squeeze out as much of the remaining toothpaste as possible. Then, cut the neck off the top of the tube, and carefully cut a slit along the side. Rinse out any remaining toothpaste with warm water and soap, and it’s ready to recycle in areas where toothpaste tubes are accepted.

You may also be able to recycle other forms of oral care packaging, such as mouthwash and dental floss containers, through your local curbside recycling program. After emptying and rinsing your containers, check on the bottom for the numbered plastic. Once you know what kind of material you're dealing with, use Earth911 to search for recycling options near you.

Can't figure out the material that some of your oral care product packaging is made from? Continue reading for tips on finding an easy-to-recycle oral care solution that works for you.


NEXT: Precycle: Cut down on waste before you buy

Mary Mazzoni

Based in the Phoenix metro area, Mary is a lifelong vegetarian and enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, biking and relaxing in the park. When she’s not outside, she’s probably watching baseball. She is a former assistant editor for Earth911.