What do pens and toothbrushes have in common? They are of similar size, are used daily by a great majority of people, are usually made of plastic and meant to be disposable, and modern versions were invented around the same time. (The ballpoint pen was invented by a Hungarian newspaper editor in 1938, the same year Dupont sold its first toothbrush!) Holding them with one’s fingers, one modulates them in a regular motion-oh, and every day, billions of them are added to the landfills. Probably a similar number to the number purchased each year.

Barbara Hirsch

Apparently, more than four billion ballpoints are produced each year, and then there are the markers, etc. As for toothbrushes, the Colgate Web site proudly announces: “Today over 1.6 billion Colgate toothbrushes are sold annually worldwide. If you lined them up end to end, they would circle the globe 16 times.” That is each and every year. Isn’t that cool?!

There are other choices for dealing with these categories of instruments, both writing and brushing.

With pens, one might consider buying refillable pens, or buying refills for ones that you already have. (I wonder how many people actually do this?) There are lots of different refills available, and not only for those fine, expensive pens. If you need to buy new ones, there are now more eco-friendly pens available, such as refillable ones made from sustainably harvested wood.

Or perhaps it is all a moot worry, as young people won’t know how to use them anymore. Keyboard disposal is another problem, altogether.

With toothbrushes, consider cleaning them with hydrogen peroxide or mouthwash/alcohol instead of replacing them frequently. The industry would rather you replace them every three months, but most of us are not such hard brushers. Also, toothbrushes with replaceable heads are available now, thereby reducing the amount of plastic tossed. Used toothbrushes are good cleaning tools too, for scrubbing laundry spots, crevices in cookware, and other household chores, but, alas, since they last forever, there are only so many one need save for these purposes.


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