Recycling Old Toothbrushes - a challenge


Who would have thought we could recycle something like an old toothbrush? And who would have thought they would be such a waste problem - found in the ocean and washed up on beaches worldwide? It's crazy that things like this can end up in the sea and on tropical beaches!

Toothbrushes may be a tiny part of the waste problem facing the world - but every small step helps and this is one step our younger daughter has decided to take through her school.

Recycling the Unrecyclable

A couple of years ago I found a company called Terracycle that recycles things that are normally considered 'unrecyclable' - They started out in the US, but are now also in many other countries worldwide, including Australia.

One of the recycling programmes they have is for recycling used oral care products - such as old toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes.  You can sign up to collect, and they provide free shipping for you to send them the waste for which you are then rewarded with points and ultimately money and prizes for schools and charities.

2016 Oral Care Recycling Challenge

So this year, our younger daughter has set up a challenge at her school to try and collect as much oral care product waste as possible - keep it out of landfill and send it to Terracycle to be recycled into something useful.
To encourage her fellow students to collect this waste and bring it to school she set up a competition between the school 'houses' to see who could collect the most.

She took 4 large cardboard boxes, 
and painted and transformed them into 4 boxes representing large coloured toothpaste tubes - one for each house, with a clear window at the front so you can see the collection progress.

These boxes have now been sitting in the school office for one school term. She has promoted this competition in assembly, to both students and parents, has created a poster and taken the request up to the high school to ask them to collect too, and also sent a collection box to her school's second campus so they can also start collecting.

Today I went in with my daughter to help her weigh each house's collection and prepare the first shipment to be sent to Terracycle.

Overall the total collection was almost 2.5 kg which is pretty good I think, That's 2.5 kg of oral care waste kept out of landfill and that will now be recycled to create something new and useful.

The results have been posted above the boxes and will hopefully spur everyone on to collect more over the holidays and next term to bring their house tally up!

So here's the first shipment all packaged up and ready to send off.

Oh No!

It was frustrating to see that even in a small collection like this -  with clear posters and instructions about what was being recycled, that all of this non-oral care product waste was also placed into the boxes.

But I guess the whole point is education so this is just another step in my daughter's challenge to encourage more recycling at her school.  She now has to work on making people more aware and clearer about what this particular recycling programme involves and can accept.

A Great Learning Experience

I'm very proud of our daughter for taking on this project and doing her part to make a difference. She's not just learning about environmental issues, problems and possible solutions, but she's also learning about managing a large project - dealing with various people, advertising, promotion and ongoing project management. Such a great learning opportunity and experience.

She is learning that you can have a great idea but to put that idea into practice takes a lot of hard work, persistence, and constant learning. She is also learning how a large project needs help from other people - you can't do everything yourself.

It will be interesting to watch the progress and development of this challenge throughout the year.

How about you? 

Have your kids ever taken on a large project like this either at school or somewhere else?  Do you have any experiences or advice to share?

Please leave a comment below - or on our Facebook page

And do keep coming back for more updates on this recycling challenge - and plenty of other things we're doing to try and 
Be Our Best!


  1. Kudos to your young one for doing her part toward recycling, Jill!

    1. Thanks so much Lynn. We're very proud of her!

  2. Hey, I'm a younger daughter of my family and even I've been inspired to really make a change for a better environment. What your daughter did was a really great idea to get the kids to work towards helping the environment as a school. My only issue is that its my last year. But ill defineately share this with my school.
    But how do I get to terracycle?

    1. Thanks Radhika. If you google Terracycle you will find if they have a branch in your country!


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