Flossing is an important part of maintaining good oral health and hygiene. But did you know that all of that used dental floss can have a negative impact on the environment? An estimated 165 million miles of dental floss are thrown away each year in the United States alone. As I’ve become more environmentally conscious, recycling my used dental floss has become a top priority.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll share everything you need to know about recycling and reusing dental floss, including pros and cons of different methods, step-by-step instructions, and tips for developing eco-friendly flossing habits. Let’s get started!
Why Recycle Dental Floss?
Here are some of the top reasons to recycle used dental floss:
Reduces Plastic Waste
Most dental floss is made of nylon, polyethylene, or Teflon – all forms of plastic. Since floss is typically used once and then discarded, it contributes to the massive amount of plastic waste generated each year. Recycling dental floss helps reduce this waste stream.
Protects Marine Life
Used dental floss that gets washed down drains can end up in waterways and oceans. Marine animals like birds, fish, and turtles can get entangled in or mistake floss for food, often leading to injury or death. Properly disposing of floss reduces this risk.
Saves Landfill Space
Dental floss tossed in the trash takes up precious landfill space, where it won’t decompose for hundreds of years. Diverting it to recycling helps conserve landfill volume.
Prevents Methane Generation
As dental floss slowly decomposes in landfills, it releases methane – a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Recycling floss avoids methane emissions.
Supports the Circular Economy
When recycled, used dental floss can be reprocessed and regenerated into new products and materials. This closes the loop and reduces the need for virgin resources.
How to Recycle Dental Floss
There are a few different ways to responsibly recycle used dental floss. Here are some of the most common methods:
Some municipal recycling programs accept dental floss if it’s placed in a sealed plastic bag. The bag contains loose floss so it doesn’t get tangled in sorting equipment. Check with your local recycling provider to see if they accept bagged floss.
Many grocers and pharmacies have receptacles for collecting used oral care products, including floss containers. Look for recycling bins in the oral hygiene aisle. TerraCycle operates a nationwide program that accepts all brands of floss.
If local options aren’t available, you can ship dental floss to specialty recyclers like TerraCycle. They provide pre-paid shipping labels and send you a new box when full. There may be a small fee to participate.
For small quantities of floss, consider reusing it for craft projects. Some ideas are using floss for embroidery floss, tying plants to stakes, stringing beads, or hanging air fresheners. Get creative!
Natural waxed floss or silk floss can potentially be composted, though it may take a long time to break down. Bury floss deep in the compost pile to keep animals from digging it up. Do not compost plastic floss.
Developing Eco-Friendly Flossing Habits
Once you’ve found a floss recycling method, here are some tips to make your routine more eco-friendly:
Opt for Natural Materials
When possible, choose products made of silk, linen, or other natural materials instead of plastic. They’ll compost much easier. Eco-Dent and Radius make great natural floss options.
Use a Reusable Container
Rather than throw away plastic floss containers, consider switching to a reusable metal or bamboo holder. You can refill it with bulk floss when needed.
Cut Back on Excess Floss
Be mindful not to remove too much floss from the spool each time you floss. Start with 18 inches then adjust from there. This reduces waste.
Only floss the teeth you really need to. For instance, floss front teeth by wrapping floss around each one. Floss back teeth by holding a length between them. This uses less floss.
Air Dry Floss
Let used floss air dry before placing in a recycling container. This prevents odor buildup.
The Bottom Line
Although it takes a bit more effort, recycling dental floss is one impactful way we can reduce plastic waste and protect the planet. With more recycling programs emerging, disposing of floss sustainably is easier than ever. I hope these tips inspire you to make floss recycling part of your oral care regimen. Our teeth and the environment will thank us!