Life Cycle of a Toothbrush


One billion toothbrushes are thrown away each year in the U.S. and most of them are made of plastic, so our plastic toothbrushes are contributing to our huge plastic problem.  It’s an item that almost everyone in the world uses several times a day, making it essential to our daily routine. Normally, you use a toothbrush for 3 months until you throw it away and replace it with a new one. But how is a toothbrush made?

“toothbrush” by dave is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

You can divide the production of the toothbrush into three steps, the handle, the bristles, and the packaging. To make the handle, plastic granules begin to be melted. After liquefaction, the plastic is then injected into a mold for the toothbrush handle using an injection molding machine. To obtain the correct shape for the toothbrush handle, the molds are pressed while the plastic cools. After cooling, the handles can be removed from the mold and the next step can begin. Next, the toothbrush bristles are attached. They are usually made of nylon, as it is soft enough to brush your teeth with but hard enough to use more often. The bristles are then attached to the “head” of the handle and clamped in place. After that, the bristles must be cut, which is usually done with a machine that can cut the bristles exactly to the desired length and shape. After that the toothbrush has to be packed, in most cases, the packaging is a combination of plastic and cardboard.

Now the toothbrush is manufactured and packaged but the journey is far from over because now the toothbrush is transported to the stores and made available for sale to customers. Toothbrushes can be found in any drugstore, grocery store, or you can order them on the Internet. A normal manual toothbrush costs about $1 on average. The toothbrush stays in the store until it is sold. If a toothbrush was then bought it is then used in most cases several times a day. After about three months of use, the toothbrush wears out and loses its effectiveness. Then it is time for the consumer to buy a new one and the old toothbrush ends up in the trash. For the buyer, it now looks as if the life of the toothbrush is over, but, it has just begun. Because it will go about 1000 years until the toothbrush decomposes. In most cases, it will end up in a landfill or in our ocean, where it will remain unchanged for many years.

After looking at the product cycle of a toothbrush, one realizes that the toothbrush is a potential hazard to our environment and wildlife because it takes such a long time to decompose completely. Furthermore, it is difficult to recycle toothbrushes, currently, just an extremely small amount of toothbrushes are recycled in the US because they contain different types of plastic (handle is made of molded polypropylene and polyethylene, and bristles are made of nylon). Therefore, the question arises whether there are alternatives to plastic toothbrushes, or what can be done to make toothbrushes more sustainable.

One possibility is a toothbrush made of a bamboo handle, although these toothbrushes are not completely plastic-free, because the bristles are mostly made of nylon, at least the bamboo handle is quite unproblematic and biodegradable. Furthermore, bamboo is a sustainable raw material, as it grows back extremely quickly, so there is no risk that the stock is endangered. In addition, there are toothbrushes where you keep the handle and only change the toothbrush head regularly, which at least saves the plastic from the handle.  Another idea is not to dispose of the toothbrush immediately after it loses its effectiveness but to reuse it for other purposes. For example, you could use it in the kitchen to clean toasters, microwaves, or coffee machines, or in the bathroom to clean the grooves between the tiles and remove hair from your brush.

Calvin Gorman

Consumer Product Analysis

As an avid seagoer I love anything to do with the ocean. I aim to be as environmentally sustainable when on the water, however, this is almost impossible in this day and age due to everything being made for purpose, rather than sustainability. I believe that this must be flipped and we must start taking sustainability into account as a priority, whilst still producing a product that serves its designated purpose. 

The difficulty with fishing gear is that there are many different types of braided lines depending on what the targeted species is, what the weathers like, how far offshore, and many other variables, and these different types of line are all made with different materials. Some lines such as monofilament have life spans of 2 to 3 years, whereas fluorocarbon lines can last up to 10 years. Fluorocarbon is actually the term given to a broad family of compounds including, carbon, chlorine, fluorine, and other synthetics made from hydrocarbons. Fluorocarbon is also used in Freon which is a refrigerant in air cooling systems, evidently it is not good for you. Hence, Freon was banned in the US January 1st 2020, due to health concerns and its role in destroying the ozone layer. However fluorocarbons are still used legally in the international fishing industry. Monofilament hence the name, is comprised from one single strand of line that may contain multiple different polymers chemically fused together, the most common medium for mono line is nylon. Which uses enormous quantities of water to be produced and also emits nitrous oxide which is a greenhouse gas roughly 300 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Monofilament is admired for its flexibility which makes it easier to cast, whereas fluorocarbon line is used for its sturdiness and is more commonly used when targeting larger fish or for rougher conditions. 

Zombie in the Water': New Greenpeace Report Warns of Deadly Ghost Fishing Gear - EcoWatch

In our oceans, fishing gear makes up roughly 10% of the total pollution. This is a very large percentage for solely one industry. Discarded fishing nets and fishing lines have been given the term “Ghost Fishing Gear”, this really implies how these discarded items are haunting our seas and destroying some of the most important habitats on the planet. If we can produce a product that can help reduce this pollution it would be beneficial to restoring sea life populations and helping rejuvenate coral reefs. 

During my research I found that a lot more fishing gear companies have started to experiment and transition to biodegradable fishing lines, in particular Eagle Claw Tackle which is the brand I use personally. Unfortunately many will not make the conversion to sustainable gear as very few anglers will want to buy a product that is designed to break. In response to this Eagle Claw made biodegradable lines much more affordable than other types of braid, and also imposed a 10 month guarantee on all lines made by them. I believe that this is most definitely the right approach to get people to use the product, however I also believe that people need to be made more aware of what consequences their actions have on the environment. Furthermore, government bodies should establish laws to prohibit the use of fishing gear with trace toxic materials, and aim to create a fishing industry that is completely 100% sustainable.

Plastic Portrayal in the Media

On November 2, 2021, a news article was released discussing the impact that the portrayal of single-use plastics in media has on our society. The USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center in Hollywood, CA began analyzing how common these single-use plastics were versus reusable and eco-friendly products in television and film. They ended up coming to the conclusion that plastic pollution was just as prominent on screen as it is in the lives of most US citizens. The ultimate goal of this analysis was to bring attention to and reduce the amount of plastic presented in the media, but to also institute changes that need to be made to progress in this generation.

Most of this research was authorized by the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Through their studies, they were able to make several assumptions about how single-use plastics portrayed in television causes us to subconsciously downplay the importance of reducing our own plastic use. They stated that single-use plastic made an appearance in every episode with an average of 28 items per episode. They also took note that a vast majority of the items were not dispose of on screen, which promotes the “false narrative of ‘magically disappearing trash.’”  Dianna Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO of the Plastic Pollution Coalition states that “We are shaped and formed by what we watch. Media has the power to reimagine the world and blaze a trail to a regenerative, reusable, refillable, healthy, thriving plastic-free world for all living beings, if only we commit and act now.” When we were younger our parents would attempt to censor certain content in an effort to prevent us from mimicking any negative actions done on-screen, but to an extent we never really outgrow that as Cohen states. The things we see on television or listen to on the radio can impact our actions in such a discreet manner that we might not even realize it until it’s already happened. 

The Plastic Pollution Coalition’s ultimate goal is to form better habits in our everyday lives. They’ve reached out to many people in all aspects of the entertainment industry to express their concerns and get them involved in the movement towards change. While these changes are on-screen, they are made with the intent of altering the actions of people off-screen.

The biggest takeaway from this article is that so many different things can make subtle influences on the way we live our lives through the things we listen to or see on a regular basis. If programs like the Plastic Pollution Coalition are able to push for changes in how often and how much we see single-use plastic in our favorite TV shows, then this could subconsciously change our careless habits of consumption with the intent to discard it immediately. By replacing the single-use plastics on TV with reusable alternatives, this would set a better example for people to follow and could make a big impact overall. Every little step counts towards an earth that is free of plastic pollution and its toxic impact on the environment.



What About Green?

Seventh generation is a green company that focuses on being eco-friendly especially with its packaging as well as using recycled materials and plant-based products. Their goal is “to transform the world into a healthy, sustainable & equitable place for the next seven generations.” Seventh Generation is all about being 100% biobased and is aiming to be a zero-waste company by 2025.

Seventh Generation logo and symbol, meaning, history, PNG

They also focus on environmental advocacy by supporting other green companies like Sierra Club(an environmental initiative that gets cities to commit to 100% clean renewable energy) Seventh Generation offers grants to many nonprofit organizations, while they also offer help to indigenous-led nonprofits for the environment and social welfare of people. They operate on a large scale and do the absolute most to reach out as far and realistically as possible to cover all the bases of being a clean company. Their website is very open and honest about its efforts to create a better environment and what extra involvements they have with third-party associations. They also have all of their products listed as well as what is contained in them and how the packaging is made and what it’s made from. On the website, it seems very open and honest with its consumers and gives off the appearance of being an ecofriendly marketplace for sustainability. They have their mission, values, activism, blogs, products, and community all highlighted and easy to find so consumers have a better time finding them and doing their own research. All Products | Seventh Generation

I would say there is little to no element of greenwashing because all of what they are saying and doing is true to their statements and they are not making any of their products or advocacy up/exaggerated. They seem very truthful when it comes to how their products are made and the steps they are taking in order to stay true to being sustainable. This is pulled from their 2020 impact report about a goal they had met for that year z In 2020, 97% of product packaging, by volume, was what we considered to be ‘Zero Waste’ — reusable, recyclable or biodegradable” they also state in the same report that As our business grew so did our greenhouse gas emissions and our total plastics use”. The last quote can go to show that although they are doing good things they still fell short on some of the other goals they have in place, thus keeping true to their transparency agreement.

“We have been humbled by what 2020 has taught us, and we emerge with a strengthened commitment to make meaningful progress for future generations. I encourage you to join us in, and hold us accountable for, ensuring that we do our part for a more equitable and sustainable climate future.”

The effects ts that have come from this company have largely affected many people and have helped get our plant closer to being green again. Their efforts have influenced many people to turn to their products as well as chose other green organizations. hopefully, one day soon, every company will be doing as much as Seventh Generation to make our early shine bright again!

Estee Lauder & Sustainability

A business I chose to investigate was Estee Lauder. They work to promote sustainability regarding plastic waste in all sorts of ways. Estee Lauder is a very well-known makeup company that most of you have probably heard of. Many things such as sustainable building operations and waste reduction have been significant parts to target environmental sustainability. Estee Lauder minimizes environmental impacts by reducing emissions and sending zero waste to landfills at their facilities.

The most significant part of the problem with makeup is the packaging because of the amount of plastic used. They are focusing on reducing the environmental impacts of a single package through its lifestyle. In 2020 they released guidelines to their developers to aim for sustainable packaging. By 2025 their goal is for 75-100% of their packaging to be recyclable, refillable, and reusable.

Their guidelines include:

–           Reducing and removing packaging where possible

–           Designing for reuse and refill ability

–           Building designed-in recyclability

–           Increasing amounts of Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) material in packaging

–           Replacing petroleum-based plastics with bioplastics (if the bioplastic can be recycled and does not contaminate the traditional recycling streams)

Estee Lauder is devoted to sourcing ingredients that have no impact on people or the future. Their goal is by 2025 that at least 90% of their palm-based ingredients will be certified sustainable.


“Sustainability has long been central to how The Estée Lauder Companies and its brands have operated and is a key part of our corporate strategy for the future. We know this work is more important than ever, and we are committed to accelerating our efforts to contribute to the health and well-being of people and the planet.”

Nancy Mahon, Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability

This quote is significant because it’s essential for brands to focus on sustainability to help our future. Estee Lauder is very transparent in all the ingredients used, and it helps us better understand what we are using. Making sure you are purchasing from sustainable companies and doing your research can be very helpful. I know how to start doing more research before buying products. Hopefully, more big brands will begin to focus on sustainability because that is what will help our future one step at a time.

The Life Cycle of a Phone Case

Purchasing plastic nowadays is inevitable for most people, due to lack of alternatives and the major push for sterile products during the COVID-19 pandemic. One plastic item that is important to me, as a consumer, is my plastic phone case. A phone case is not something that adds value to my life, because I would not die if I did not have a plastic case on my phone, but it does increase the safety of my cell phone. Having a case on my phone means that I can bring it to places and not worry about the important information on my phone disappearing if I dropped it and broke it. It also is helpful because I don’t want to have to pay hundreds of dollars on a new phone if I can buy a $50 phone case that will prevent that. 


The phone case that I currently have is an Otterbox iPhone 13 clear case which is made out of Polycarbonate and synthetic rubber. Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic which means that it can be melted and reshaped, which is a better trait for plastic compared to a thermoset plastic, which is permanently shaped. The Otterbox website states that the case is made out of 50% recycled plastic but it is unclear where the recycled plastic came from previously. That also means that the other half of the case is 50% new plastic, which is a point not mentioned on the website because that is not a good selling point. There are many different types of synthetic rubber but it is important to note that synthetic rubber is an elastomer and derives from petroleum. The company is based in California, but their products are made throughout the US, China, and Mexico. 


A single phone case can last for years, depending on how you take care of it, but personally, they last me around a year before they turn yellow and begin breaking down. I also drop my phone quite often and the Otterbox cases always prevent my phone from cracking and breaking or shattering the screen. The brand itself states on their website, “We’re at the beginning of this journey toward sustainability and we don’t have all the answers — but we’re asking the right questions to help us bring Otter innovation to better managing our environmental footprint” (Otterbox). They appear to care about their environmental footprint, as they do use recycled plastic, but they could do more as a company for the planet. The company itself is worth billions of dollars, so it is shocking that they do not have a plan in place already, but they are working on a plan currently. An important point to mention is that they do have a warranty plan so that if your case breaks within a certain amount of time, they will replace it for free. This is a nice feature from the brand, but they just send you a new one instead of taking the old one back and recycling it into a new case. After the case is broken and no longer usable, it is sent to the landfill where it will never decompose. 


The fact that a phone case is a very important item in my day-to-day life speaks to how times have changed drastically in the past fifty years. It is upsetting that this is an item that I need and there is nothing I can do about its afterlife, except look for a sustainable alternative. Even if there is an alternative, it might not perform at the level that my plastic phone case would, which would be a waste of money in the long run. Hopefully, Otterbox is able to find a way to incorporate more sustainable practices into their products in the future, but for now, they are the best plastic phone case on the market in my opinion. 

Patagonia Green Efforts

Patagonia, a designer outdoor clothing cooperation, is one company in the United States that is actively working toward a greener future. Starting with an entire section on their website detailing their specific efforts toward green activism and informational infographics that detail the production line of textiles from start to finish, Patagonia has dedicated an entire section of its department to sustainable movement. They have created different programs, volunteer efforts, donation events, and more sustainable, concious efforts towards a greener future.

Patagonia’s company has reported that this season “87% of [their] line uses recycled materials” This practices encourages reducing plastic waste as well as reusing it, as well as avoids uses of fossil fuels to decrease climate change effects. Overall Patagonia’s activism section on their website encourages to keep yourself concisous when it comes to buying new clothes and textiles, and cut down on our societies desire of consumption. By encouraging the reduction of consumption of clothing items, Patagonia puts out the message that they would rather have quality over quanitiy and reduce the waste that goes directly into our enviroment. They have documented on their website all the materials put into their products, which feautre plasitic textiles such as wool and nylon, but as well as recycled versions of the materials as well.

A report and study by McKinsey & Company is placed on Patagonia’s website that showed “consumers buy 60% more items of clothing and keep them for half as long as they did 15 years ago”, and with clothing contributing to “10% of pollution as a whole” apperael companies need to start understanding their overall effect on climate change and plastic/textile pollution.

The Patagonia company has not only priotized green effrots as far as their prodcution line goes, but details on their website the exploration of the entire footprint their clothing brand creates. I think this is valuable as, although they are a major company, they are transparent and clear with their consumers of the lifespan and impact their products have on the enviroment. Patagonia has not only built a company of informative and responsible understanding of their enviroemtnal impact, but has created several programs to establish real, active efforts to improve their company’s carbon and sustainablity footpring. One program is the “Materail Traceablity Program” which strives to establish the traceability of all their materials in the supply chain and work towards only using “enviromentally sustainable materials available”. Patagonia has also created a “self-imposed Earth tax” which will put forth 1% for the planet and support different enviormental non-profits.

Although many companies use words such as “sustainable”, “green” and “conscious”, its apparent that sometimes large cooperations will market to the consumer what they want to hear, only to continue to practice unethical and polluting methods behind closed doors. I think Patagonia is one of the few major apperael companies that not only is conscious of their specific effects on the environment and informative, yet calls other companies out on their uses of ‘Greenwashing’ on their main infographic under activism.

Patagonia’s company I beleive is one of the few major companies that is truly transparent with their production line to understand the types of wastes and pollution that they may put forth in the enviorment. I think as our enviorment declines and our plastic pollution rates get higher, its these major companies responsibles to figure out the most effective way to reuse, recycle, and overall destory their plastic pollution all together.

Flying Solo-Less

Alaskan airlines has recently announced they are going to switch from single use bottles and plastic cups to plant-based cartons and paper cups throughout 2022, starting on Thursday November 4th, 2021.  This is a big change for the company.  During a conducted study, the company looked into the products on board that carried the biggest environmental plastic footprint and found beverages to be the problem.  Alaskan airlines has worked hard to make attempts to recycle their plastic goods but this effort wasn’t always carried out by passengers or even some lazy airline workers so they decided to turn to a new alternative that should be better for the planet.

Paper Cups

Alaskan airlines has already stopped the use of all plastic straws on their flights.  Making the switch to plant-based cartons and paper cups will remove around 22 million plastic cups and 32 million plastic bottles, or ~1.8 million pounds of single-use plastic, from their flights throughout 2022.  To put this number into an image for you,  this is equivalent to how much 18 Boeing 373’s weigh.


Boeing 373

This change was brought into action by Diana Birkett Rakow, the Alaskan Airlines vice president of public affairs and sustainability.  She noticed all the beautiful places the airline flies over, and decided a change needed to occur within the company to make sure these places stay beautiful and untouched by plastic for years to come. Alaskan airlines is the fifth-largest airline carrier in the United States, so hopefully after this change is set into place, other airlines will realize how beneficial the switch to plant-based cartons and paper cups can truly be for the environment and they will too be persuaded to make a change within their companies.  Alaskan airlines has also started allowing passengers to pre-order fresh made food before their flights to cut down on plastic snack packaging during their flights.

Paper cups have their pros and cons though.  Paper cups break down faster in landfills and are easier to be processed at a recycling plant when being compared to plastic cups.  They are also still single use, which helps cut down on the spread of germs and contact, which is especially important during times like now when Covid-19 is still spreading around to lots of people.  One major con of these cups is that many contain an inside plastic film layer, used so liquids cannot seep through.  They can also cost more which may just not be a reasonable switch for some smaller businesses that have to keep their expenses low.

This switch is part of Alaskan Airlines’ five step plan to reduce their environment footprint and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.  Although this switch may seem like a huge step, there are still many more items that will need to be switch out and replaced over the years before this airline can claim they are 100% plastic free.  This switch only affects the materials water is served to customers and plastic cups will still be used on Alaskan airlines to serve alcohol and soda to consumers.


Plastic Straws? Think about the Paws!

Plastic straws are used every single day by billions of people. Now, although they are bad for the environment and harm the animals, citizens of the world seem to not care. As long as they can sip their drink without a care in the world, they’re all for plastic straws. Plastic straws are actually extremely toxic to the environment. Plastic straws are made from polypropylene. The other materials they’re made out of plastic resin, colorants, and other additives. In order to make a plastic straw, the plastic resin and other materials and mixed together, and then the mixture is made into a tube shape. After this, the straws go under specialized operations. After this, they are packaged and ready to be sold. Plastic straws are a one use item, which is why they’re so toxic to the environment. Typically when straws are thrown away they end up in landfills. After landfills, the wind usually carries them to either oceans or rivers affecting marine life. The environmental impacts of plastic straws are astonishing. Plastic straws are no biodegradable so insects and bacteria can’t consume them so they don’t go away like for example paper does. It could take straws up to 200 years to biodegrade. Plastic straws are also hard to recycle and are the seventh most collected item plastic items found. Since plastic straws are light, they fly away easily, making them go to places they’re not supposed to be. Plastic straws are also harmful to ocean wildlife. It was estimated that about 800 species in the ocean are affected by the ocean plastic pollution and that about 100,000 marine life animals die every year because of it. The social impacts of this include many people around the world taking action to ban plastic straws. We are in complete control of these impacts because ultimately we are the ones choosing to use these straws. Some assumptions I’ve made are that plastic straws aren’t that bad for the environment but in reality they are and it’s so easy for us to stop using them but we keep using them anyways.

Plastic Straws

The last straw: In N.J., single-use plastic straws to be provided by food  businesses upon request only starting Nov. 4 ⋆ Princeton, NJ local news %

Sustainable businesses..

There is almost nothing around us that is not made of plastic. It seems that plastic is involved in almost every aspect of our lives. It is everywhere you go and it’s really convenient in many ways.  However, even though these plastics can be repurposed, single-use ones harm our ecosystem. Thus, it is so unfortunate how something so small can have so much negative impact. It is especially harmful to the ocean. The ocean is dominated by marine organisms, and plastic negatively impacts their health.  While the situation is receiving much more attention there are so many businesses that have been very successful at being sustainable. Even though it cannot fix the plastic pollution overnight it is important that businesses are taking these steps in trying to make a change that can help the environment. 


One business that is taking these steps at being more environmentally sustainable is Lush. 

Lush is a company dedicated to creating fresh, cruelty-free, vegetarian, handmade, low-waste, and effective bath, body, skin, and hair care products that are sourced ethically and without animal testing. The company leads the way in the development of solid products, which eliminates the need for packaging. Millions of plastic bottles are saved from being produced, transported, and disposed of every year by their naked bubble bars, conditioners, and henna hair dyes. In addition, when you purchase naked products, you get the best ingredients and fragrances, so your money is spent on products that are the best for your skin and hair, rather than fancy packaging that can be discarded easily. A simple change from packaged to naked can have a profound impact. Take the shampoo bars for example. 124 million plastic bottles were prevented from ever being made due to selling 41 million shampoo bars since 2005. The amount of plastic saved is about 3417 tons, which is about the weight of 30 blue whales.

Outback Mate

Solid, naked products have been a hallmark of Lush for decades since they don’t require any synthetic preservatives – this means that they are completely self-preserving. The product recipes are designed so that there’s little to no water required for bacterial growth, and instead, we substitute honey and salt, natural preservatives that don’t contain synthetic chemicals. Offering unpackaged bath, shower, and body products encourage others to become innovative and reduce their packaging usage too by raising awareness of the overuse of disposable packaging.

When Lush can’t eliminate packaging completely (like in the case of liquid body washes or gift sets), they use materials that are recyclable, reusable, compostable, or post-consumer recycled, like their 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles and pots. In a way not every big business is going to be 100% plastic-free so in a way lush might be greenwashing some of their products. Overall they seem to be doing a good job at trying to be sustainable for the environment. It’s also cool that Lush has also been experimenting with using ocean plastics in its packaging. The removal of plastic from the ocean would be economically beneficial while supplying packaging made from post-consumer plastic. 

I think their attempted effects on trying to become more sustainable and making an impact on other businesses,  are very good, especially the fact that they try to eliminate as much waste as possible which can be very good for the environment. 

Nature, Earth, Sustainability, Leaf, Arrows, Caution