Disposable Toothbrushes – Headed in the Wrong Direction

Last week, I traveled aboard JetBlue to Florida for a family visit. I emerged unscathed through security and was greeted by friendly smiles by the flight attendants. After settling into my seat, the food and beverage service started. Anyone remotely sensitized to sustainability issues knows that the airlines need to step it up several notches in this area. Few of them even recycle their aluminum cans. The utensils, plates, and packaging are disposable. To be sure, airline sustainability takes the notion of “away from home” recycling challenges to a new (and higher) level. But NOT recycling aluminum cans is just plain lazy.

There I was on JetBlue headed to the promised land of sun, far from the cold of Boston. I was reciting my mantra-like reflection on environmental airline woes when I was struck by another blow to my environmental sensibilities. Those friendly flight attendants were passing out free samples…of disposable toothbrushes!

Don’t get me wrong. I will be the last person to tell some stinko-breathed person next to me NOT to use a toothbrush, even one of these mini 3-inch ones. But come on! Is this really what the Colgate-Palmolive Company should be inventing in this day and age? I was doubly surprised since the company is taking a leadership role in a national dialogue aimed at reducing packaging waste. Is Colgate’s mini toothbrush recyclable? Compostable? Biodegradeable? Is this the most sustainable solution to controlling bad breath? What about gum or breath mints? What about carrying a regular toothbrush with you?

People gobbled up these free samples, and I (somewhat sheepishly) requested one so I could write about it. With products like disposable toothbrushes coming onto the market, it is a signal that well-meaning companies are still heading in the wrong direction, at least on some of their products. They need to hear from us that such products are a thing of the past. As for me, for a product like this, I will support companies like Preserve, which makes a toothbrush that is made from recycled plastic and is recyclable. Speak up. And when you open your mouth to brush, think sustainability.

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