Over 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes are purchased every single year, with the average person using 300 in their lifetime. Unfortunately, roughly 80 per cent of these end up in the sea. With dentists recommending to change your toothbrush every 3 months, after it's served its purpose, it's usually thrown away. Plastic toothbrushes sit around for over 500 years before finally breaking down into micro plastics – with each toothbrush taking up to a thousand years to decompose.
Recently, GSK Consumer Healthcare (GSKCH) has announced a new innovative way to leverage renewable raw materials for high-performance oral care products - helping reduce the use of fossil fuels for virgin plastic. The company is piloting this with its Dr Best GreenClean toothbrush, which builds new sustainable handle technology onto its previous innovations with sustainable bristles and packaging.
- The Dr Best GreenClean toothbrush handle is made from renewable cellulose and ‘tall oil’ - a wood-based bioplastic that is derived from pine, spruce and birch trees in sustainable forests, and is being applied in oral care for the first time by GSKCH. It is a byproduct of paper production, and would otherwise be disposed of.
- The bristles are made of 100 per cent renewable castor oil (already used in GSKCH’s Aquafresh and Dr Best bamboo brushes).
- The product’s 100 per cent plastic free packaging includes GSKCH’s innovative cellulose window (which is also made with renewable cellulose). The packaging can be completely disposed of through a wide range of municipal recycling schemes.
- GSKCH has formed a partnership with ClimatePartner, Europe’s leading solution provider for corporate climate action, to analyse and minimise the carbon impact of the product and its manufacturing - reducing the carbon footprint of the brush by over 50 per cent compared to the standard Dr Best toothbrush. The remaining footprint is offset through a community based ClimatePartner project in Madagascar. With offsetting being a secondary measure to the avoidance and reduction of carbon impact, GSKCH scientists are exploring ways to achieve carbon neutrality without offsetting in future oral care launches.
GSKCH’s Dr Best – which holds an ambition to become the world’s most sustainable toothbrush manufacturer – already has global plans to apply the technology across other toothbrushes in its portfolio - including in its market leading Sensodyne brand. It is working hard to increase the development of sustainable options across its oral care portfolio in recognition of growing global consumer preference for more sustainable products. A recent Nielsen study showed that “73 per cent of consumers say they would definitely change their consumption habits to reduce their environmental impact.”
The launch of the carbon neutral toothbrush is another step in GSKCH’s ongoing sustainability journey in oral care, which began with rollout of its first sustainably grown bamboo toothbrushes in September 2020 in Europe. This March it launched its first plastic-free toothbrush packaging, which included Sensodyne Pronamel and parodontax brushes in the US. Asia Pacific rollout of this commenced in Australia.
Gareth Rudduck, oral care sustainability lead for GSK Consumer Healthcare, said, “We’re proud to have led the growth of the oral care category globally, applying our trusted science to build awareness of preventable oral care conditions and drive better oral care habits. We’re now collaborating with retailers and dental healthcare professionals to drive the growth of more sustainable options in oral care products across the world. Whilst this product achieves carbon neutral status by offsetting, we are working to develop future solutions that do not require offsetting. It’s just one part of our ongoing sustainability journey, in which we’re working to address the environmental and societal barriers to everyday health.”
The new carbon neutral toothbrush is part of GSKCH’s overall mission to reduce the carbon it generates.The company has a two-pronged approach to carbon reduction. Firstly, it is reducing energy through more efficient manufacturing systems (including energy efficient lights, heating systems, and motors; and the switching off of power when feasible). Secondly, it is investing in renewable energy for GSKCH sites – with a commitment for all to use 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2025. It is also working closely with suppliers to reduce the amount of carbon content in all of its materials and reducing the overall amount of plastic used across the product portfolio.
GSKCH is due to separate into a new company next year, however, whilst it remains a part of GSK, its sustainability initiatives support GSK’s company wide commitment to achieve a net zero impact on climate and a positive impact on nature by 2030, announced by CEO Emma Walmsley in November 2020.