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Toothbrush waste is a big problem: CEO Saskia Coleman explains

Saskia Coleman

Plastic waste is a growing problem, and we can each do our part to reduce it. Opting for eco-friendly products is the way to go when possible, and more and more are becoming available. One area that I admit I hadn’t thought much about when it comes to going green is oral care. Toothbrushes, specifically. So, when the opportunity to interview Saskia Coleman came up, I was eager to do so. Saskia is the CEO of RADIUS, the leading manufacturer of natural care products, including toothbrushes. RADIUS is also woman-owned. In this interview, we talk about the serious implications of toothbrush waste and how to combat the issue.

Disclosure: This sponsored post highlights sustainable, biodegradable, recyclable products that help the planet and bring healthy smiles.

Interview with Saskia Coleman

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Saskia. Let’s get right to it!

I hadn’t realized that toothbrush waste is such a problem. Please tell us a bit about the environmental issues.

There are a number of issues surrounding toothbrush waste and oral care product waste in general. The first and foremost issue is that most oral care products are not recyclable. The reason why is because the type of plastics that most oral care products are made up of are either not collected in the community recycling streams (they are made of #5, #7, and other materials that are not collected) and also because most oral care products are made up of more than one type of plastic. Every single toothbrush has bristles that are a different type of plastic than the handle.

In addition, many toothbrushes have two types of plastic in the handle. Subsequently, most toothbrushes end up in landfills. In fact, about 99% of all oral care ends up in landfills.

The global manual toothbrush market size was estimated at USD 5.34 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 5.71 billion in 2022. Each year a minimum of 4 billion toothbrushes are thrown away and go straight into a landfill or find their way into the waterways.

In addition, to make matters worse, toothbrushes are now only designed to last 1-3 months. Under the guise of hygiene, Dentists and large oral care brands are increasingly suggesting that people should throw away their toothbrushes every three months. This has added tremendously to the waste factor in recent years.

Not to mention the increased use of fossil fuels to produce, package, and ship more and more new toothbrushes around the world from China and other places where the majority of toothbrushes are made. Waste on top of waste.

The fact is that toothbrushes do not need to be thrown away every three months if the bristles are designed to withstand use. There is no concern with bacteria because you can just wash your toothbrush with hydrogen peroxide and water in order to sanitize the bristles, so the only reason to throw a toothbrush away would be that the bristles are starting to break down and cause someone to hurt their dentin (enamel) and gum tissue if the hard plastic of the toothbrush head is hitting their gums and teeth.

If you design a toothbrush that lasts longer and provides a safer bristle design, you do not need to throw the toothbrush away. If you design a toothbrush with a replacement head, you’d not need to throw the entire toothbrush away, you could only throw the head away.

A biodegradable toothbrush is a great way to lower one’s ecological footprint. Is that why RADIUS invented this type of product?

Yes, RADIUS launched biodegradable toothbrushes as a mechanism to eliminate the end-of-life issue that the majority of oral care products have. 99% of products end up in a landfill and so if one designs the products to biodegrade in a landfill then one is reducing the impact on landfills across the world. RADIUS’ mission is to design for reduced carbon footprint both on the front of life and end of life of all our products.

All of our toothbrushes are made from recycled content, subsequently reducing the amount of virgin resin that we use in our products and reducing the amount of petroleum used in the products. They are also made of materials such as renewable wood-based resin and upcycled materials, such as hemp, wood, coconut shell, recycled dollar bills, wheatstarch, and more.

How can switching to a sustainable toothbrush make a difference to the planet?

By switching to a sustainable toothbrush, each person can help reduce the amount of products that hit landfills. In addition, it will reduce the waste of fuel and single-use packaging used in the sale of oral care products and toothbrushes. The longer the toothbrush lasts, the less often one needs to buy a new one and, subsequently, the less waste there will be at the end of its life that would find its way into a landfill.

Sustainable toothbrushes from RADIUS
Sustainable toothbrushes from RADIUS. Photo courtesy of RADIUS.

Saskia Coleman, please share how RADIUS was founded and your position at the organization

RADIUS was founded in 1983 by my father, Kevin Foley. It is a second-generation family-owned company and now certified women-owned.

The original concept of RADIUS’ first product was to evolve the toothbrush from what it had originally been… basically a stick. The first toothbrush in human history was a neem stick, and even after hundreds of years of human-made toothbrushes, it had not ever truly evolved past the shape of a stick.

RADIUS was founded with innovation at heart and the idea of taking everyday-use products and making them better through design to be more effective, more enjoyable, and more sustainable. At the core of our products is our toothbrush design, specifically made to have circular bristles that massage the gums with a wider head to ensure less pressure is put on just the teeth, which can cause gouging and enamel erosion as well as receding gums by pushing the gum tissue up as one brushes back and forth.

In addition, the wider head makes sure to massage the gum tissue, which also needs constant stimulation for healthy gums to reduce bleeding. In addition, the shape of the handle was designed to be ergonomic and right and left in order to ensure the correct orientation when someone is brushing their teeth and provide the most comfortable grip that does not allow any unnecessary pressure to be put on the teeth and the gums. All of our designs from our first concept in 1983 have carried with them this idea of ergonomics and more effective brushing with safe bristles and additional benefits of massaging the gums.

RADIUS offers a large range of eco-friendly toothbrushes. What are the most popular models?

The most well-known RADIUS toothbrush is the Big Brush due to its very large head and iconic handle shape. Very popular now as well is our Source Toothbrush, which has a replacement head to reduce waste and is made from upcycled materials.

For our children’s line, the most popular toothbrush is the Totz toothbrush which always ranks top on Amazon and many other retailer shelves.

Why is shopping with an eco-conscious mentality so important?

When we shop sustainably, each one of us are able to make a small but meaningful impact toward building a sustainable future. The more consumers that select eco-conscious products, the more pressure will be put on brands to make eco-friendly options in their product design, and the more retailers will be forced to offer more sustainable options in their stores.

Consumer demand has a truly fundamental and important impact on the decisions retailers, and brands make when selling and creating products, forcing them to consider the impact their offerings have on the greater good rather than just being driven by profit alone. Conscious consumers collectively can drive the reduction of single-use plastics and help reduce waste, emissions, pollution, and landfill growth.

Who inspires you, personally or professionally?

I am inspired by my father, who started RADIUS because he believes in thinking outside of the box and taking a path less followed. I am also inspired by the amazing small businesses in the world that are innovating every day to bring better options to our everyday lives. Humanity is truly exceptional when you think about how far we have come and how much we can accomplish with a dream and ingenuity.

Where can we shop for RADIUS products?

You can find RADIUS products at many retailers, both online and in stores. Most notably, you can find RADIUS on Amazon, Walmart, Whole Foods, CVS, Kroger, Wegmans, HEB, Albertsons, Sprouts, Fresh Thyme, Natural Grocers, Grove.com, iherb.com, thrive.com, and many more locations! You can also purchase all of our products at https://madebyradius.com/

***

Thank you for being here, Saskia Coleman!

Environmental waste is a big problem, and that includes toothbrushes. Each person CAN make a positive difference on our planet, so please do your part.

Soon I will be reviewing RADIUS products that were kindly gifted to me. I will write a future review post on my honest feedback about a selection of their sustainable toothbrushes, floss, and toothpaste.

 

Top photo: Saskia Coleman. Photo courtesy of RADIUS.

20 thoughts on “Toothbrush waste is a big problem: CEO Saskia Coleman explains”

  1. Fascinating!
    Thank you Saskia and Christy!
    I use an electric toothbrush. I use the head for about 6 months, until it’s too fuzzy to be doing a good job. I’d like the company (Oral B) to make biodegradable or recyleable heads.

  2. sharmishtha basu

    I too never thought about toothbrush waste! thanks for sharing this info.
    Have a wonderful 2023!

    sharmishtha

    1. …mainly because I do everything with all the delicacy of a steamroller…including brushing my teeth! Ha! (soft bristles and wide brushheads helps with gum erosion)

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