My toothbrush was your yogurt cup: designing environmentally friendly oral hygiene

preserve® toothbrush I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown weary of toothbrushes that look like rocket ships or sex toys and come nowhere close to fitting into any kind of holder. But its sleek, minimal design and ability to fit perfectly into my bathroom’s built-in ceramic caddy are only two somewhat superficial reasons I love the Preserve toothbrush by Recycline.

I’ve used a lot of toothbrushes over the years, and have undertaken a fair amount of experimentation in this realm. But this is the first cradle-to-cradle toothbrush I’ve ever owned, which makes it my favorite. Not only is the toothbrush itself made from recycled plastic, but Recycline (and the stores that sell its products) actually provides consumers with a postage-paid return envelope to return one’s spent brush and its case in order to recycle it again. This system probably seems novel to most American consumers, who may wonder why on earth a company would pay to take back its used products (and packaging). But this is not a new concept: Germany started a national waste-reduction program in 1991 (Green Dot, or Grüne Punkt) that shifts the responsibility of disposal from the consumer to the manufacturer. This changes the way German companies produce and package their goods, how individuals dispose of waste, and the ways cities collect and process waste. It has also led to a drastic national increase in recycling rates.

Social agenda aside, the Preserve toothbrush has other noteworthy design features to add to those I mentioned earlier. The head of the toothbrush is angled 45º, which is aesthetically pleasing and provides lovely leverage while brushing (good for the gums because you don’t have to apply as much pressure). The packaging is also quite smart: a clear, rectangular tube, with end-caps and breathing holes, which doubles as the perfect traveling case (and, as I mentioned, can be recycled along with the brush). I bought mine at Trader Joe’s (and I bet Whole Foods and similar places carry them, too), but you can also order one online directly from Recycline.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Peter said,

    Awesome!
    I’ve been meaning to sink in to William McDonough’s “Cradle to Cradle” book!

    “When designers employ the intelligence of natural systems—the effectiveness of nutrient cycling, the abundance of the sun’s energy—they can create products, industrial systems, buildings, even regional plans that allow nature and commerce to fruitfully co-exist.”

    I’m still working on Hot, Flat, and Crowded. It’s put a bit of a lump in my throat.

  2. 2

    Joshua said,

    What if these guys used a netflix style model where you got a new toothbrush in the mail once you sent the old one in?


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