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Can I Recycle a Toothpaste Tube? 6 Personal Care Recycling Answers

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For those of us who feel recyclers remorse when we toss pretty much anything in the trash, the bathroom can bring on some serious recycling anxiety. Every single personal hygiene product comes in some kind of disposable packaging. You find yourself wondering if biodegradable floss exists. And, why the heck doesn’t that plastic bottle have a recycling number on it?

Get ready to give your bathroom waste an eco-makeover. From toothbrushes and mouthwash containers to deodorant tubes and shampoo bottles, we have answers to your personal product recycling questions.

1. Toothpaste Tubes

Although many toothpaste tubes are made from the readily recyclable materials, like plastic #4 and aluminum, that doesn’t mean your local curbside recycling program can accept the tubes. Call your recycling center first before tossing the tubes in your recycling bin.

If your recycling program doesn’t accept them, Terracycle will. Terracycle provides national programs, called Brigades, to collect hard-to-recycle waste, like toothpaste tubes. While some programs have a cost, most of the Brigades offer free shipping as well as a donation for each piece of garbage that you collect. TerraCycle then converts the collected waste into a wide variety of products and materials.

Some companies, like Tom’s of Maine, will take back their own toothpaste tubes for recycling. Give your toothpaste company’s customer service department a call to find out.

2. Toothbrushes

Believe it or not, toothbrushes can actually be recycled, but don’t go tossing them in your local curbside recycling bin. Toothbrushes are usually only accepted through take-back programs, like Terracycle and Preserve, an upcycling company. Preserve sells products made from recyclable materials and will also take back those same products, including toothbrushes, for recycling. Preserve also accepts all #5 plastics for recycling through its Gimme 5 program.

Your handy toothbrush is a tad tricky to recycle because it’s made of three different materials: The handle’s plastic. The bristles are made out of nylon. And a small metal staple holds the bristles to the brush. These components have to be taken apart and then recycled separately, according to Earth911.

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3. Mouthwash and Dental Floss Containers

You shouldn’t have a problem recycling mouthwash containers. Most are made from easy-to-recycle #1 plastic. Your local curbside recycling program likely accepts them.

Your local recycling center many not accept dental floss containers, which are often made from trickier #5 plastic. If your recycling center doesn’t accept #5 plastic, send your empty floss containers to Preserve’s Gimme 5 program.

4. Deodorant Tubes

Deodorant tubes are made out of plastic, so they should be easy to recycle, right? Not quite. If you can even find the recycling numbers on your deodorant tube (good luck), the dial on the bottom of the tube is often made from a different type of plastic than the tube itself, which makes recycling them tricky. Plus, the lid rarely has a recycling number on it.

You’ll likely need to contact the company that makes the deodorant to find out what types of plastics make up the packaging. Then, you’ll have to find out if your local recycling program will accept the tubes.

Don’t want to go to all that effort? Terracycle accepts all brands of deodorant tubes. And, you don’t even have to worry about getting the remnants of deodorant out of the tube. The recycling process works by shredding the tubes, which exposes any product residue. They then go through a washing process, are melted and reformed into pellets to be made into new material, according to Earth911.

5. Disposable Razors

Unfortunately, disposable razors are pretty much just that…disposable. Recycling centers won’t accept them because of safety concerns with the blade, as well as bio-contamination fears. Even worse, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that we toss 2 billion disposable razors each year.

Still, other options exist. You could swap out your disposables for longer-lasting razors, or buy Preserve disposable razors. The company accepts its branded razors for recycling. Preserve upcycles the plastic #5 handles of the used razors into new shavers.

6. Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash and Face Wash Bottles

All of your most-used personal hygiene products should be as easy to recycle as milk and juice bottles. If you flip your bottles over, you’ll likely spot a #1 or #2 recycling number on them. Simply rinse them out and toss them in your recycling bin.

Follow Kirsten on Twitter @kirsten_hudson, Google+ and Pinterest.

image: justinhenry

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