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Philips extends UK toothbrush recycling scheme

Philips is extending its free recycling programme for dental care products in the UK to include manual toothbrushes.

The initiative, set up in collaboration with TerraCycle, accepts oral care products of any brand. It was launched in 2020 to recycle electric toothbrush heads and covers, electric flosser nozzles, flossing sticks and interdental brushes, and dental floss containers, none of which is recycled through municipal collections. The scheme excludes toothpaste tubes, toothbrush packaging and dental floss.

Parcels of waste can be sent free to TerraCycle, earning points redeemable as charitable donations to a school, charity or non-profit organisation. A network of 249 publicly accessible drop-off locations is available for people to leave their used oral care products.

‘Human health and environmental health go hand in hand,’ says Jess Gregory, consumer marketing manager for Philips Oral Healthcare.‘Circular design and circular product development are key to further improve energy efficiency our products, reduce materials usage, and meeting our ambitious environmental targets. We focus on using less, using longer and using again, for example by reducing the weight and volume of our product packaging and moving towards re-usable, recyclable or compostable packaging. By offering new business models including lease options, we give products a second or third life.

TerraCycle operates similar schemes for producers across 21 countries including 12 in Europe. Critics argue such initiatives offer an opportunity for brands and manufacturers to make ‘greenwashing’ claims rather than concentrating on putting more sustainable products on the market.  

A spokesperson for Terracycle could not say how many Philips oral care products had been returned to recycling since 2020. ‘Our role is to convert the material into a usable format so manufacturers in the plastic industry can use it as part of their production,’ they told Recycling International. ‘In the case of oral care products, it is likely that the plastic will be used to manufacture products such as benches, outdoor furniture or construction applications.’ 

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