Green Scene

The other day, I was complaining to my mom about someone, and she scolded me for ‘trash talking.’ It pollutes the air, and it poisons everything, she correctly pointed out. Moms are always right. Gossiping is a nasty habit, I know, but that phrase ‘trash talking’ got me thinking. What other ways do our mouths pollute the world? What other kinds of trash do our yappers create?

(Cigarette shawl taken from

Take smoking, for example. Each year, at least 4.5 trillion non-biodegradable filter-tipped cigarette butts are discarded worldwide, and we all know where they end up – in front of our office buildings, clogging city drains, washed up on our favorite beaches, and stuck to the bottom of our cute little shoes. Searching for a way to recycle all of these butts, Chilean designer Alexandra Guerrero founded the Mantis Project, and began turning butt filters into clothing. Sound crazy (or disgusting)? Well, it’s actually genius. The filters inside trashed butts are purified, mixed with natural wool, and spun into a rustic looking thread that can then we knitted into any kind of garment imaginable. Check out the process here. The results are very promising…and quite fashionable!

Keep reading for toothbrush, utensil and chopstick recycling ideas!

(Craft knife toothbrushes taken from

What about all those discarded toothbrushes? Dentists recommend that we change our toothbrush after 3-4 months of use to avoid bacteria growth, but that’s a lot of plastic clogging up out landfills. Here are some ideas for reusing those old chomper-cleaners:

1.  Ditch the bristles, and use the handles – WWU student Jason Harrow made craft knives from old toothbrush handles and sells them! Get creative with your flatware by attaching fork and spoon heads onto toothbrush handles.  Maybe make a pen, a paintbrush, or a crochet hook out of the plastic handle. The possibilities are endless!

2. Cleaning – Old toothbrushes are great for cleaning in nooks and crannies. First, put your toothbrush in the dishwasher or douse with a boiling water/vinegar mixture to sanitize. Then, get cleaning! Faucets, doorknobs, shoe soles, jar threads, garlic presses, window screens, keyboards, tarnished jewelry, etc. In the laundry room, an old toothbrush works wonders for scrubbing stains. Soak combs and brushes in water and vinegar for a few hours, then use an old toothbrush to whisk away any buildup.

3. Jewelry – Here’s a super cute idea. Make a bracelet out of an old toothbrush! Pull out the bristles with a pair of needle nose pliers. Boil a pot of water, remove it from the stove, and drop the bristle-less brush into the water. It should take about 5 minutes for the plastic to soften. Remove the brush with a pair of tongs and wait for it to become cool enough to handle. Wear gloves or use a pot holder to mold it around a glass jar. When you’ve got your desired shape, submerge in a bowl of ice for a minute. Once the plastic sets, you’ve got yourself some awesome eco-fashion!

(Plastic flatware light from

Speaking of plastic, there’s also the issue of plastic utensils. Every time I order take-out, go on a picnic, or host a BBQ, I’m conflicted – plastic is so convenient, affordable, and practical, but it’s so bad for the environment! The best thing to do is reuse or recycle your plastic forks and spoons whenever possible, but there are more creative ways to reinvent them. The BVD Collective, a student project from Appalachian State University, debuted a stunning collection of lighting fixtures created from recycled plastic flatware. They called their gorgeous creations the ‘Waste Not’ line of lamps, and proved just how illuminating recycled design can be.

(Chopstick jewelry taken from

Chopsticks are another form of disposable utensils. I’m a big fan of jazzing up old chopsticks with paint, wire, beads or glitter and sticking them in my hair, but there are so many options for these versatile sticks! Jewelry tops my list. Check out these amazing Altered Chopstick Earrings I found on Etsy. So creative! I want to try and make a chopstick bracelet or necklace when I save enough old pairs.

Use old chopsticks in the kitchen as veggie skewers, shrimp de-veiners, or noodle scoopers to test if your pasta is done! In the garden, chopsticks can be used as support for struggling shoots. If you’re a crafter, old chopsticks are almost essential. Make picture frames, soap dishes, baskets, mobils, centerpieces, card holders…let your imagination run wild!

Do you have any cool ideas for reusing our ‘mouth waste?’ What do you do with old dental floss containers? Straws? Mouthwash bottles? Empty toothpaste tubes? Put your recycling where your mouth is, and let us know what you think!

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  1. Madalynn 01/19/2009 at 5:33 pm #

    I love the toothbrush bracelet idea! I’ll definitely do that sometime!

  2. Alison 01/20/2009 at 3:19 am #

    dental floss containers make cute jars for homemade lip balm

  3. Anna L. 01/20/2009 at 11:43 am #


  4. kImI 01/20/2009 at 11:48 am #


  5. Sarahnargle 01/26/2009 at 12:06 am #

    I have a bunch of old Sesame Street toothbrushes (in a different color for each character) that I made into bracelets a million years ago – they’re still one of my favorite accessories!

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