How to Turn a Toothbrush Into Gold


Image via Ellie Marie

When I first started Terracycle, I spent a lot of my time explaining what upcycling was. It was this foreign concept whose name wasn't on a lot of people's radar. Now, a handful of years later, more than 10 million people are collecting the brand specific waste that we've used to make a range of products; it has become increasingly common and may some day be as conventional as recycling.

Currently, several startups are building their business around upcycled products and major corporations are including upcycling in their operations and products. Corona is even using it as both an environmental awareness bringer and marketing tool, building pop up hotels at famous beaches from the waste collected there! As upcycling grows, so do the Terracycle collection Brigades. Our newest with Colgate, giving toothbrushes and and toothpaste tubes a life beyond the waste bin, is nearly full after two months of starting. 2000 spots used to take a year or more. Whether it's because people are anxious to do something different with their waste or because the incentive of easily raising funds for your children's school or favorite organization is appealing in these cash starved times, it's clear that upcycling has arrived.

We're testing out various reuses, but so far we've made toothbrush holders, shave kits and make up cases from Colgate products.

Upcycling is about more than products or services though. It's a lifestyle and educational opportunity for younger generations. That's why we've recently launched a free 3 year environmental curriculum, tailored to age groups ranging from Kindergarten through 12th Grade. Colgate realizes that it takes more than toothpaste to have a healthy mouth, and have found another way to effectively reach kids: Make it a game called Bright Smiles, Bright Future.

When we can teach people at a young age to take responsibility for both the planet and their own health, it's a lesson that can last into adulthood. Curricula and activities like these also mark the shift in company's interaction with the public, from a one way path of products to purchasers to an effective ecosystem of activities, engaging, educating, and powerfully activating consumers, for the benefit of all.

Readers: Where are you seeing our youth being effectively reached out to about sustainable living? Where could we as a society, as businesses do better?
Read more about upcycling:
Junk+ion: Recycling, Upcycling, Just Turning Upside Downing
Amazing Summer Pavilion Made from 200 Upcycled Speedo Swimsuits (Photos)
How to Upcycle Gift Cards

Tags: Consumerism | Recycling | Upcycling

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