Can toothpaste boxes be recycled?

When we think of household waste we can recycle, the bathroom isn’t necessarily the first that comes to our mind. However, it would be surprising to know that a whole lot of products found in the bathroom are recyclable, including toothpaste boxes.

Toothpaste boxes are made from paper cardboard. This makes it easy for these boxes to be recycled, and in some cases, might even be composted at home.

Other toiletry packaging that could be recycled include:

  • Soap boxes
  • Toothpaste boxes
  • Band aid boxes
  • Empty toilet paper tubes 
  • Empty tissue boxes

Recycling toothpaste boxes

Toothpaste boxes have been around for a long time, and have not been pushed to the side in favor of plastic, unlike most paper products. Easily recyclable, these boxes are accepted by all recycling facilities since they are purely cardboard paper.

If you do not have easy access to these facilities, you may even add it to your compost pile. The best thing to do when trying to compost it is cut them into pieces for the degradation to be quicker. This way, you would not need to wait for garbage collection to dispose of them.

What about toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes?

Oral care products, such as toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes, may seem impossible to recycle. After all, how would the recycling machinery remove all of that extra toothpaste from the tube or disassemble a toothbrush for recycling? 

Good news, both toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes are recyclable. However, it is not as easy as you think.

Oral care products and packaging vary greatly by material. They can even be made from different numbered plastics, together with aluminum, steel, and nylon. In most cases, each of these components must be processed separately, making recycling even more challenging.

Recycling toothbrushes

Toothbrushes are one of the most complicated items collected for recycling across the board. This is simply because they are made up of three different components. 

Imagine the struggle to separate the nylon bristle, the metal staples that hold the bristle in place and then the plastic handle. 

Anyway, after the toothbrush components are separated, metals are then processed through standard recycling. The nylon and plastic components are shredded, cleaned and palletized for one.

Recycling toothpaste tubes

The sticky residue inevitably left inside toothpaste tubes make it seem like another head-stretcher, but they are actually much easier to recycle. 

One of the tricks for getting residuals out from toothpaste tubes is to shred the materials. Once shredded, this will expose the surface area which has residual. 

After shredding, these tubes pass through a washing cycle where they are cleaned with water or simple biocide. Biocide is a solution that dissolves bio-based materials. 

After cleaning, shredded tubes are dried. They soon enter a pelletized step, where they are converted into pellets to be used in new products

Similar shredding and pelletized processes are used for salvaging mouthwash containers and dental floss packaging for recycling.

Precycle your oral care products

While recycling options exist for nearly every type of oral care product packaging, you will be taking the greener route by choosing easy-to-recycle products and packaging ahead of time. This process is called precycling.

  • For toothbrushes, consider changing to a model with a replaceable head to minimize waste. Rather than tossing an entire toothbrush every three months, replacing the head and using the same handle for more months will minimize your trash at home.
  • When choosing your toothpaste, consider a brand that offers a take-back program for tubes and packaging. If you want to skip the paste-cleaning step when recycling, consider a tooth powder. You can also do some research prior to grocery shopping to check your options in finding recycling solutions easier.

Common questions about recycling toothpaste boxes

Why is toothpaste sold in a box?

There is no concrete reason as to why we need boxes for toothpaste when it is already placed in a tube. What most people see the box is for is simply marketing. Toothpaste boxes are solely for branding purposes and help make the product look more expensive. 

How many toothpaste tubes are thrown away?

More than 1 million toothpaste tubes are thrown away every year, in the US alone. While it is good that these tubes can be recycled, a lot of people are still not aware that they can do something about it instead of just throwing them straight to their bins. As a result, these toothpaste tubes add to the growing landfill wastes globally.

How long does it take for a toothpaste tube to decompose?

500 years is needed for a toothpaste tube to completely decompose. No wonder, since these packaging materials are purposely designed to last long. It is also designed to be non-permeable to outside contaminants to protect the toothpaste, which makes decomposition almost impossible.

Cardboard boxes are as easily recyclable as plain paper. You can cut them into really small places and add them to your compost pile. Then again, waste is still waste. It would be better for the environment if we could just stop putting toothpaste tubes in boxes, since all we do with these boxes is just throw them away.