One Girl’s Trash is Another Girl’s Toothbrush: Cool Things Made From Garbage

Publish date:
July 23, 2014

My purse is constantly full of dirty, discarded water bottles I’ve picked up off the street to bring home for recycling. I've even pulled my car over to snag one I see on the side of the road! If I find out a restaurant I frequent doesn’t recycle, I pack my soda can back out with me and write a letter to the manager, taking them to task. I also harangued my old boss to start printing our scripts double-sided in order to cut the amount of paper we used in half. Now that you know all this, you might be thinking that I'm a gold-star earth-friendly hippie chick, right?


I'm actually hiding a secret shame: I absolutely, positively cannot bring myself to stop using paper towels. I have three dogs, all of whom love to randomly throw up their dinner up on the floor -- and I can barely clean it up without hurling myself. (It’s a well-known fact that barf begets barf, look it up if you don't believe me.) I cannot imagine having to rinse it out of a fabric cloth and re-use it -- I feel sick just thinking about it.

I am also an unrepentant incandescent light bulb addict. There is no way I'll ever have any of those horrible, swirly, ugly-light throwing compact fluorescent light bulbs in my house, no matter what the government has to say about it. Incandescent bulbs have become harder to find these days due to new restrictions, but I planned ahead and have been busy stockpiling them since early last year. (My holy grail light bulb is forever the GE 60-watt Soft Pink, in case you’re interested -- they make your bedroom glow like pure sex. I’ve got 96 of them sitting in my garage right now!)

Since I just can’t seem to quit these two VERY earth-unfriendly habits, I’m trying to make up for it in other areas -- like by picking up every recyclable bottle I see and also: by brushing my teeth with trash.

These Preserve brand toothbrushes are indeed made of trash -- specifically, yogurt cups made of polypropylene #5, which has a poor history of being recycled. Preserve also makes a shaving razor system with refillable blades, again, using other people's trash. They might be old news to some, as they've been around since 2001, but I only recently noticed them at my local Trader Joe's.

At just $3.00 per toothbrush, they are comparable to some fancier $5.99 jobbers I've had over the years. Which is nice, because while I like to do my part to help the planet, it usually means having to purchase something far costlier than its non-green counterpart -- something I'm not always willing to do. (Especially since I usually have a half-dozen toothbrushes going at any time -- one at home, in my car, at my desk, and on the wardrobe trailer.)

If you've wondered where I've been the past few weeks, I've been brushing my teeth in this god-forsaken wardrobe trailer.

And, when your trash toothbrush reaches the end of its life, you can mail it back to the company inside the original packaging in came in -- and the company recycles it yet again. Trust me, I'm well aware of the inherent ridiculousness involved with paying good money to mail your trash clear across the country -- so if you happen to live near a

Whole Foods, you can also recycle your used Preserve toothbrushes and razors there in person.

But toothbrushes aren't the only cool things out there that used to be someone's stinky old trash. The folks behind Further Products are taking the idea of making something useful out of garbage a step farther than most, because their delicious soaps, lotions, and candles actually started out life as used vegetable oil from restaurants -- which was then converted into biofuel in order to run their two family cars and one company truck. But the often-trashed by-product of making biofuel is glycerin, which the Further Products peeps don't toss -- instead, they refine it and turn it into these lovely, fragrant ways to clean and moisturize yourself!

In addition to being made from the actual trash of, well, trash, everything in the line smells incredible -- using fragrant oils of bergamot and olive. (Noted soap enthusiast Tyler Durden would be so proud -- waste not, want not, indeed.)

It's one thing to brush your teeth and wash your hands with products that used to be trash, but you'd probably draw the line at wearing underwear made of trash. I thought so too, but then someone turned me on to these stretchy, breathable, moisture-wicking, quick drying hot pant shorts made by Teeki and I've taken to wearing them as underwear with my shortest dresses all summer long. Each pair is created from seven recycled water bottles, and they are a sexy alternative to my usual full-coverage granny panties. Plus they have the added cache of being made from actual, factual trash!

They are also great for swimming, surfing and yoga. But be warned -- the size chart is a bit misleading, as they are giving you the measurements of their garments when lying flat, un-stretched. When worn, they stretch a good four to six inches! (In other words, they're not as small as they might seem.)

If you're feeling fancy, you could spring for some seriously upscale trash: these groovy Brazilian-designed handbags, belts and jewelry by Escama Studio, made from recycled soda and beer can pull tabs that have been carefully polished and crocheted into useful, functional items.

But if all you want is an easy way to use those pull tabs from your last party, just take a walk into your closet and get busy, because the lowly pull tab makes a great space saver when it comes to hanging clothes. Simply thread an old pull tab around the hook of a hanger and cascade another hanger from the second hole on the tab. Voilà! Closet rail space, doubled. All thanks to the power of trash.

I’m on Twitter: @IveyAlison