Plastic pollution has been identified as one of the biggest challenges we face in our mission to create a cleaner, greener future – and some of the biggest culprits are the plastics used to create dental hygiene products.
Toothbrushes, whether manual or electric, are often made by co-moulding different types of plastic into the handle or the head. Mixing plastics in this manner makes it very difficult to recycle them, as the different polymers involved need to be treated in different ways to be successfully re-used.
Given that most of us will use around 300 toothbrushes in our lifetime, and with 3.5 billion toothbrushes sold globally every year, this creates a huge – and growing waste problem.
Reswirl is a start-up company based in Stevenage, UK, with ambitions to tackle this growing pollution problem by closing the loop in toothbrush manufacturing and recycling.
Reswirl was set up in 2018 by four founders with strong track records in retail, innovation and industrial design: Conway Daw, Simon Porter, Salih Fikri and Pepi Reeves. They wanted to find a way of making toothbrushes truly sustainable.
At the moment, mixed plastics sent for recycling, such as toothbrushes, are chopped up and turned into a lower grade material which is then used to make other products such as watering cans or bollards. While this gives the material a second use, it means it will eventually will still end up in landfill.
Reswirl’s revolutionary approach combines a subscription service with a toothbrush made from fully biodegradable and recyclable plastic. Customers sign up to the service and receive a brand-new toothbrush at their chosen interval. When they receive a new one, they return the old one to Reswirl, who recycles and remoulds it into a brand new brush. This creates a closed loop where none of the materials used are wasted. And because the plastics used are biodegradable, toothbrushes not returned for recycling for any reason will not create any additional plastic pollution.
The company had originally planned on launching simply with trademark and design registration, but then discovered that they could make an application for a patent on the basis of some aspects of the design combined with the recycling process. This has allowed them to secure investor interest, and the company is also pursuing grants from Innovate UK, and launched a Kickstarter fundraiser in April.