A Brush with Conscience

When we think of Trader Joe’s, we typically salivate, thinking of our favorites such as chili lime organic corn tortilla chips, frozen steel cut oatmeal and Sir Strawberry juice. Tucked in a corner of the store, however, is a small but worthy section of truly unique household, health and beauty products. The Recycline Preserve toothbrush is one of them.This simple toothbrush has a fascinating story behind it and I can honestly say I’m impressed.

At first glance, the Preserve is quite plain. The no-frills plastic handle is a solid color of smooth plastic with an odd curve. There are no racing stripes and multi-colored bristles like the better-known brands. A photo of a fern with dew drops on it serves as the package insert. It seemed to me a casual attempt for some company to sell recycled or recyclable toothbrushes to the environmental crowd. Not so. This is one well thought-out product.

The Preserve handle is made from 100% recycled plastics - polypropylene from recycled Stonyfield Farm yogurt cups, to be exact. Though that sounds yucky, the more sophisticated among us know that recycled plastics pass the same cleanliness tests as virgin plastics. I, however, had to read it on their website. It also explained why the bristles are virgin nylon rather than a natural bristle. Natural bristles harbor more bacteria than nylon. More importantly, they are stiffer and can harm enamel. Don’t fret. They are recycled along with the handle.

At this point, I wondered to myself just how big a problem used toothbrushes were and sure enough, the Recycline website stated that used toothbrushes contribute 50 million pounds to our waste every year and that’s considering the average American changes toothbrushes 1.5 times a year versus the ADA recommended four times a year. To make it even easier, Recycline provides a postage paid envelope, which Trader Joe’s carries, so you can send it to the company to be recycled.

The packaging is also a conveniently reusable toothbrush holder with tiny ventilation holes. Is this enough for me to spend an extra 75 cents or so on the Preserve? Not yet. Clicking around the website, I learned that the odd curve, called a “reverse curve”, happens to be the result of two years of research with dentists and peridontists. It is some special design to encourage the optimal position for most effective brushing. Geeky oral health nuts, click here to read about the Bass Technique.

Now that I’ve inspired you all to save the Earth of used toothbrushes and maybe replace your own brush more often, let me tell you about another neat little feature. The Recycline website offers a subscription to the Preserve toothbrush for $13. You get 4 toothbrushes in the color, firmness and even frequency (all at once or sent to you every 2-5 months) of your choice.

Rather than being an afterthought, the Preserve toothbrush is a smart and useful innovation. Next time you are at TJ’s swing by and have a look.

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