The oral care industry has a sustainability problem.
For too long the oral care industry has perpetuated a culture of disposability. It’s thought that the average person goes through around 300 toothbrushes in their lifetime.
But the scale of the problem is vast and extends well beyond toothbrushes. Think bottles of mouthwash, plastic tubes of toothpaste and interdental brushes, non-recyclable nylon dental floss – all packaged up in yet more single-use plastic. The entire oral health ecosystem seems to be designed to be thrown away and bought again, with little thought about the end-of-life.
Why is this happening?
There appears to be an overall lack of care from within the industry and a small number of household names have dominated the space for decades. Longstanding infrastructure and production methods make it expensive and unappealing for the incumbents to change strategy and adopt more sustainable practices.
Products feel as though they are deliberately designed to only last for a short period of time, so disposability has become the norm. Instead of innovating eco-conscious materials, or trying to create a product people love, the focus has shifted towards introducing gimmicks and ‘smart’ features that don’t seem to enhance the brushing experience. As a result, perceptions and expectations around oral care products are understandably low.
The other problem is awareness. Issues like plastic bags or straws are widely publicised and easier to comprehend. But most people simply aren’t aware of the sustainability problems of the oral care industry, nor that other solutions exist.
Why does any of this matter?
We estimate that at least four billion toothbrushes are thrown away each year, along with almost 20 billion toothpaste tubes. Neither of these items are readily recycled so they end up in landfill where they gradually pollute the surrounding landscapes and exacerbate the growing environmental and biodiversity crisis.
If you’ve read our article on e-waste you’ll know that electric toothbrushes are one of the worst offenders when it comes to toxicity. Which is one of the many reasons we made SURI to begin with.
The creation (and ongoing expansion) of landfill sites requires the clearing of great swathes of wild areas. Not only does this destroy natural habits, but as the landfill sites begin to fill, local species are driven out by predatory animals that feed on the waste, like rats or crows.
But the damage extends much further. Landfills produce a liquid known as ‘leachate’. This highly toxic substance permeates the soil and nearby water sources, compromising the soil fertility and making the water unsafe for consumption – for animals and humans.
What does the future hold?
We believe the future of oral care is purpose-led, high performance, and a pleasure to use.
Designing our toothbrush with these standards in mind has enabled us to turn an uninspiring chore into an enjoyable daily ritual.
We’re aiming to be a catalyst for change across the industry. There’s already a sea change of other brands taking up the mantle; with toothpaste in recyclable tubes and plastic-free floss becoming more widely available and adopted.
There’s still a long way to go, but together we’re creating a buzz.