What is RADIUS's Plastics Journey?
Nov 19, 2020
That’s how many toothbrushes are thrown away in the U.S. every single year. That’s enough to stretch around the circumference of the earth….4 times.
A few more scary facts about your run-of-the-mill toothbrushes:
- 50 million pounds of these toothbrushes end up in landfills each year
- Plastic toothbrushes can take literally 1000 years to decompose
- Many toothbrushes are made with a combination of polypropylene plastic and nylon sourced via non-renewable fossil fuels
- Manufacturing these materials produces nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas which is 310 times more damaging than carbon emissions
- Toothbrushes often end up in waterways and oceans. It is an unnervingly common experience for researchers to find plastics in digestive organs of wildlife.
- The popularity of electronic toothbrushes means more batteries are being used. More batteries = more batteries that end up in landfills...leaking battery acid into wildlife regions.
- Think bamboo brushes are better? Think again. Bamboo is by and large sourced from China. One ship transporting bamboo from China to the U.S. actually uses more oil than it takes to supply an entire year’s worth of plastic bags in the U.S. Plus, there are several other issues with bamboo brushes which we explored in this article.
AT RADIUS, WE WANT TO DO OUR PART TO CHANGE THAT STORY.
Our goal is to be 100% plant-based and 100% biodegradable in the coming year.
In our 35+ years as a company, we are proud of the strides that we have taken to reduce our plastic use and greenhouse emissions, and increase our use of renewable, sustainable, and biodegradable materials to create premium oral care that is not only great for your teeth, but healthy for our planet. Our first toothbrush was made from plant-based materials back in 1982 and we have been carrying the torch in sustainable innovation ever since.
Our vision is simple: EVERY DAY BETTER.
Every day we think about how we can do better and we are continually testing the best ways to decrease our ecological footprint (and yours!).
Here is the journey we’ve taken and are taking:
(aka what we’ve already done to be be more eco-friendly!)
- 100% Recyclable. All of our materials for our toothbrushes and travel cases are 100% recyclable. If we create imperfect items, we always recycle them to reduce our waste. Not only that, we hand-select materials to ensure that no heavy metals or carcinogens enter our products.
- Better Bristles. RADIUS toothbrushes have 300% more bristles than your average toothbrush...meaning they can last much longer than the average 3 months and are thrown out less often. Our bristles are made from vegetable-based nylon which, while not biodegradable, is created from all-natural, renewably-sourced elements that work toward eliminating our dependency on fossil fuels, helping to cease our reliance on mining and fracking. More specifically, our bristles are made with eco-friendly castor oil instead of the common non-regenerative fossil fuel petroleum. Castor oil also makes bristles absorb minimal moisture and retain their shape for longer.
- Bioplastics and Upcycled, Renewable Materials. At RADIUS, we pride ourselves on using bioplastics and renewable materials in many of our products. Our bioplastics cull resin from renewable biomass sources such as vegetable oils, timber, hemp, coconut, wood, paper, and even dollar bills! While not all of our products currently use bioplastics, we intend to work toward this change in Phase 2 of our journey.
- We do not use PLA in our products. Polylactic acid (PLA) is a polymer that is manufactured using renewable resources that has some biodegradable capability. It is popular among some products branded as ‘eco-friendly’ such as Jack and Jill toothbrushes, Humble Brush Corn Starch toothbrushes and other well-known ‘natural’ oral care companies. Unfortunately, while PLA is marketed to be biodegradable, compostable and recyclable, that is not always the case. If PLA is not disposed of in the right conditions in a landfill, it can actually take hundreds of years to decompose! And it is exceedingly difficult to recycle properly. Not only that, because it is significantly less durable than petroleum-based plastic counterparts, it is often blended with these polymers to improve durability, thus negating its eco-friendly properties. Indeed there are several other issues with PLA that we have not explored here that we will address in a forthcoming article.
- EcoPure® in Plastics. One of our primary concerns has been addressing the ecological footprint during the end-of-life cycle of our products. That means that we are continually exploring how to make our plastics 100% compostable and biodegradable in landfills. EcoPure® is an organic additive that, when added to plastic, will help it to biodegrade more quickly in a landfill environment. When added to a polyolefin plastic (such as polypropylene), plastic degrades at a rate of 40.2% over 385 days. When that polyolefin plastic does not contain the EcoPure® additive, it only degrades at a rate of 3.2% over that same time period. With this additive, we have been able to ensure that all of our products can now be biodegradable in a landfill.
- Plastic-free Boxes and Biodegradable Silk. Through innovative design, we developed 100% plastic-free packaging for our floss created out of sustainable paperboard. While our organic and vegan flosses use nylon, it is a soft nylon free from PFAs and PTFEs. We also have options for 100% plastic-free, biodegradable floss made from natural, pure silk thread.
- Replaceable heads. At RADIUS, we’ve found that one of the biggest environmental issues of our time is combating a pervasive single use, waste culture. Unfortunately, when toothbrushes do not have replaceable heads, both the toothbrush and the handle end up in the landfill (this equates to about 99% of all toothbrushes!).
At RADIUS, we’ve done our part to create toothbrushes that make it easier for you to do the right thing for your planet. With replaceable heads, all you need to dispose of is the head and the handle can last...well...forever! Our Big Brush, Source Brush and Tour Brush all feature replaceable heads. These replaceable heads with our signature wide head and circular bristle pattern not only last longer than your average smaller replaceable head, but compared to standard toothbrushes without this feature, they reduce plastic waste by 90% or more.
One other awesome bonus? Since we use EcoPure® in all of our toothbrush heads and handles, both are biodegradable when they end up in a landfill.
- BPA-Free. BPA is a common additive to plastics, including many toothbrushes. BPA is a dangerous chemical that mimics hormones, consequently disrupting endocrine systems and leading to reproductive, immunity and neurological issues. Frequent exposure can also result in an increased susceptibility to Alzheimer’s, childhood asthma, metabolic disease, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Not only that, it can be extremely toxic for aquatic wildlife since it often accumulates in reservoirs when deposited in landfills.
- Reduced Eco-Costs During Manufacturing and Shipping. We use small batch, low energy machines and make our products in the USA. In other words, our machines are low energy and we limit shipping since the majority of our customers are in the U.S. This is important because 50% of eco-costs for toothbrushes happen during manufacturing & distribution!
(coming to RADIUS in the near future):
Let’s get 100% plant-based, baby!
Our primary concern at the moment is making ALL of our toothbrushes and travel cases plant-based. Since 1982, we have been creating options for plant-based toothbrushes and it has been our dream, year after year, to one day make all of our products plant-based.
At the moment, we’ve run into a few supply issues for our plant-based resins due to the pandemic’s impact on the supply chain. Natural, plant-based resins are less available than oil-based plastics. One further challenge is that these resins are also less predictable during the manufacturing process and can be difficult to mold. For example, recycled materials added to plastic will react differently and less consistently than pure plastic materials. However, rest assured that we are 110% committed to working with sustainable materials. It is an art as much as it is a science. An art that we work every day toward perfecting.
To that end, we are THRILLED to announce that we are currently in the final stages of moving from non-biomass materials to green polyethylene material derived from sugar cane. This means that, in the very near future, almost 100% of our products will be made from natural or plant-based material.
We are excited to see how these forthcoming changes will impact the future of our plastic journey. We have always been dedicated to tracking the latest technological advancements in the plastics evolution. It is our deepest desire to create premium, effective products that leave zero footprints and are better for our consumers and better for our world. And we’re proud to say that this: every day, we’re getting better.
Follow our journey with the hashtag #RADIUSPlasticFreeJourney and feel free to tell us about your own plastic-free journey!