Can You Recycle Toothpaste Tubes in the UK?

Toothpaste tube

Recycling everyday household items is mostly straightforward these days.

Our bathrooms are full of items that can be fully recycled once we’ve finished using them, and most local authorities will collect and recycle bathroom waste such as toilet roll tubes and empty shampoo bottles.

However, there’s one part of our daily bathroom routine that creates a lot of waste that isn’t as easy to recycle: cleaning our teeth.

Disposable plastic toothbrushes are a huge problem for the environment, but recyclable toothbrushes such as these bamboo toothbrushes are now available on the market for those of us trying to achieve a zero-waste lifestyle.

But what about our empty toothpaste tubes? According to Georganics, every year in the UK “we dispose around 250 million empty toothpaste tubes”.

Toothpaste tubes are typically made of non-recyclable plastic and can take around 450 years to decompose.

The problem is that most local councils don’t currently recycle toothpaste tubes.

Toothpaste tubes are made of multiple layers of materials fused together, so breaking them down for recycling is much more complex than for other household items.

Recycling Toothpaste Tubes

Even though most councils don’t recycle the squeezable type of toothpaste tubes, pump action toothpaste tubes are made from a different type of plastic and are much easier to recycle, so you might want to check with your local council to see if they will recycle them.

However, you won’t be able to recycle the actual pump, so although you may be able to recycle the tube itself, this isn’t a completely zero-waste solution.

If you’re looking to fully recycle your squeezable toothpaste tubes, you can try sending them to a specialist recycling centre like TerraCycle, who have a recycling program for all oral care products including toothpaste tubes.

To use TerraCycle, you will need to purchase a fillable box to begin with, which you can then use to collect empty toothpaste tubes (you can also fill it with electric toothbrush heads, floss containers etc.).

Once your box is full, you can send it to Terracycle via courier. Once received, Terracycle will safely recycle all the contents of the box.

Before you send your empty toothpaste tubes, it’s best to prepare them by cutting open the tube and cleaning them thoroughly with warm soapy water.

These kinds of recycling boxes will hopefully become more common throughout the UK, and if you can’t afford to buy your own, keep an eye out for them in supermarket lobbies, local businesses and dentists.

Other Options for Zero-Waste Toothpaste

If you’re struggling to find anywhere to recycle your toothpaste tubes locally, another option is to use alternatives to traditional plastic tubes.

Georganics are planning to bring out toothpaste in a squeezable tube that’s completely recyclable, but in the meantime you can check out their website for a good range of natural toothpastes in recyclable glass jars.

Cosmetics retailer Lush sell a product called Toothy Tabs in their stores and online, which you simply nibble in your mouth to clean your teeth.

Toothy Tabs are also suitable for vegans, and are packaged in recycled and recyclable bottles (the bottle can be recycled by local councils, and you can take the lid back to Lush stores for recycling).

For some more plastic-free toothpaste options, see our recommendations here.

It’s also surprisingly easy to make your own toothpaste at home from simple ingredients.

Try making this simple toothpaste below, or have a search online for other recipes.

You’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, slightly softened
  • 1 tablespoon bicarbonate of soda
  • A couple of drops of edible peppermint oil

Make sure the coconut oil is slightly soft, then mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Use immediately.

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