Toothbrush recycling going strong at Waikanae Kindy
by Katharina Kennedy, Waste Minimisation Officer, Feb 2016
Waikanae Kindergarten is serious about reducing waste. They already have a couple of worm farms for their food waste, recycle their plastics, glass and paper, and run a litterless lunchbox scheme. And, since the end of last year, they even collect toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, dental floss containers, and associated packaging for recycling.
The oral care waste collection is part of a national programme run by TerraCycle to recycle traditionally non-recyclable materials. Toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes are currently not collected for recycling in New Zealand due to the complex mixture of materials they consist of. It can be done however, for example in the US where the plastic from oral care waste is turned into things like park benches or watering cans. In New Zealand toothbrush recycling hasn’t started yet, as TerraCycle are still in the process of collecting up a large enough volume to make recycling worthwhile.
Waikanae Kindergarden hit the news for becoming one of the first public drop off points for toothbrush recycling in June last year. Since then they have sent off 4,606 items for recycling. Head teacher Pettina Meads said thinking about what happens to your toothbrush was a good way to hook kids and community members into recycling. For their first box of oral care waste, they were sent back a toothbrush pen and toothpaste tube pencil case - a great way to demonstrate the concept. “We also use the toothbrush recycling as a numeracy exercise.” Every term, the kids sort and count their collection before sending it off. Last term’s impressive haul: 127 toothbrushes, 104 toothpaste tubes, 64 toothpaste boxes and 14 toothbrush packets.
The Kindergarten at Russell Reserve in Waikanae is a public drop-off location. All oral care waste, except electric toothbrushes, can be dropped off between 8am and 5pm on weekdays, or in the deposit box if the Kindergarten is closed.
For each item recycled the Kindergarten receives two cents. While it takes a long time to accumulate funds, Pettina says once they have an amount to spend it will go towards a bush explorer programme, enabling the tamariki to explore the Russell Reserve bush to develop the their sensitivity with nature.
Participation in the scheme is free, and everyone can collect or become a public drop-off location. More information is available on the TerraCycle website.
image: Aidan Green, Anja Jennings, Hannah Wooster, Jack Vaughan, Ben Morgan