Two summers ago, staff at the Houston Zoo began recycling their toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, floss containers, and toothbrush packaging here at the Zoo as part of the “Plastic Free July Challenge” – a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution, helping to save marine animals like sea turtles! After staff saw just how much plastic they could keep out of landfills in just one month, they began thinking about the impact we could have if we ALL recycle our toothbrushes and dental hygiene items. It wasn’t too long after this that toothbrush recycling was brought on grounds permanently and introduced to our guests via The Swap Shop (located in the Children’s Zoo).
We all need toothbrushes, but, they cannot be recycled with general recyclables, resulting in 1 BILLION toothbrushes being thrown away in the US every year. Thankfully, Colgate partnered with Terracycle and created a program where dental hygiene products turned in for recycling are turned into objects like bags, folders, and other school supplies for the Kids in Need Foundation!
Andrew, a trader with the Swap Shop, has taken the toothbrush recycling program here at the Zoo to a whole new level. Looking to increase his impact on saving wildlife, Andrew began asking people in his neighborhood to drop off their plastic toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, and dental floss containers in a box on his family’s porch. He also spoke with his orthodontic office, and they allowed him to put a sign up on their front desk explaining the toothbrush recycling program and encouraging patients at the clinic to participate. Andrew recently brought in his first load of toothbrushes last week, and it was quite a haul! We can’t wait to see how Andrew’s wildlife-saving efforts continue to grow.
You can join Andrew in protecting animals like sea turtles in the wild by recycling your toothbrush on your next visit to the Zoo! You can drop off your items in the designated recycle bin in the Swap Shop. In addition to saving wildlife, you’ll also earn points that you can spend during future visits to the Swap Shop!
Please note that electric toothbrushes and battery toothbrushes are not recyclable with this program. Before dropping off toothpaste tubes, please cut tubes down the side with scissors and rinse out any toothpaste residue prior to bringing them in.