RETHINK: Toothbrushes

One of the more recent questions I’ve been getting is can my toothbrush be recycled.

Probably not and definitely not in the blue single-stream carts.

Most toothbrushes are plastic; however the bristles are nylon and the gripy stuff is a kind of polymer. So basically it’s a composite/mixed material and it’s not recyclable in most city’s single stream systems. I’m also not aware of any residential program recycling nylon but if you find someone please let me know.

Yes there are wooden toothbrushes out there with boar bristles or some other animal hair bristles. These theoretically could break down in a compost-type environment. There are several deterrents on these for me personally right now.

  • The City of Austin is not currently accepting compostable toothbrushes at this time.
  • The last bamboo handle/boar bristle brush I tried, the bristles came out in my mouth and I didn’t care for the taste of boar hair. That’s not to say all “compostable” toothbrushes have these issues, but I haven’t tried another brand since.
  • The packaging tends to be oddly enough not recyclable or ridiculously excessive/contrary to being more earth friendly.

I support compostable toothbrushes in theory. However if my city isn’t accepting them in curbside compost, the packaging doesn’t improve (recyclable and/or zero waste), I can’t buy one locally, it tastes weird or doesn’t work as effectively, then I’m going to do the best I can with a recyclable plastic toothbrush.

Look carefully at any bamboo or wooden handled toothbrush you are interested in purchasing. Many of these have nylon bristles still and so the entire toothbrush is not compostable and it may be hard to pull out the nylon bristles, plus there may be metal or some other material holding the nylon bristles in place, posing a possible compost contamination.

I use the toothbrush pictured here by Preserve. They come in Ultra Soft, Soft and Medium. I brush with Soft and clean my wedding ring with a Medium. I then use the old brush to clean my house with until it really wears out then I recycle it and its envelope at Whole Food Market’s Gimme 5 collection bin by the registers. This toothbrush is still a plastic handle with nylon bristles; however the Preserve Gimme 5 Program is able to recycle it in their single purpose facility.

You may also mail in Preserve toothbrush(es) if you are not near a participating Whole Foods location.

If you mail us your old toothbrushes, not only will they be recycled into new Preserve products, but you will also receive a coupon for Preserve’s online store. For every 6 toothbrushes that you send back to us, we will reward you with a $6 coupon.

Preserve Toothbrushes are available at: