Small and useful as they are, toothbrushes create a lot of waste when thrown out: If every American changes toothbrushes every three months, as dentists recommend, that adds up to almost 100 million pounds dumped into landfills.
Should you ignore the American Dental Association? No. You can and should replace your old toothbrush, which gets worn out and loaded with bacteria, but you don't have to throw it away. Here are some greener alternatives.
GET A GRIP.
Designed by dentists, the Recycline Preserve toothbrush ($3.50; www.greenfeet.com) has a handle made from recycled Stonyfield Yogurt cups. When the brush wears out, you can send it back to the company in Massachusetts, where it's reprocessed into source material for plastic lumber.
OFF WITH ITS HEAD.
Radius, a company founded on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, offers several stylish, architect-designed, recyclable toothbrushes made from sustainable natural cellulose. The battery-powered electric Intelligent toothbrush ($9; www.radiustoothbrush.com) uses replaceable heads, and Radius will take back the handle for recycling once the battery dies (usually after about 18 months-a red light in the handle will tell you).
Eco-Dent TerrAdenT toothbrushes
($3 and up; www.eco-dent.com) from Lotus Brands in Wisconsin have snap-on replaceable heads. The company also offers natural tooth powders, flosses, rinses, and dental gum.
The Save the Planet One Toothbrush at a Time recycling program at ToothbrushExpress.com is similar to Recycline's: You sign up to receive new toothbrushes at specific intervals-anywhere from monthly to semiannually. And for only $3.50, the company will send a postage-paid mailer kit you can use to return your old toothbrushes, so they can be made into planters, decking, or benches.