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Preserve Turns 50 Tons of Trash Into Toothbrushes

Preserve collected 50 tons of waste polypropylene plastic this year though its Gimme 5 recycling program for plastic that it turns into new toothbrushes and other goods.

The company makes razors, plates, mixing bowls and more out of 100 percent post-consumer and post-industrial polypropylene (PP), which is rarely accepted in recycling programs. It also will take back any of its own products for recycling.

Although Preserve accepted mailed-in #5 plastic (PP's resin code) for a while, its Gimme 5 program really took off in 2009 when it began placing collection bins in Whole Foods Market stores, creating its own supply chain for post-consumer waste PP. That was also when Preserve began taking in Brita filters along with yogurt cups, butter tubs and other PP packaging.

So far this year, Preserve has collected more than double the amount of PP it brought in last year through collection bins in more than 200 Whole Foods stores and other cooperative markets. It also accepts PP through the mail and recently developed a mail-back pouch for its toothbrushes.

Plastic from the Gimme 5 program gets turned into Preserve toothbrushes and razors, and some also is used to make other items, like packaging for deodorant and baby wipes. Preserve's toothbrushes, in turn, end up as plastic lumber when they're recycled, and its other products get recycled back into new Preserve goods.

Post-industrial plastic has a role in Preserve's goods also, since the company has partnered with Stonyfield Farm since 2001, collecting scrap plastic and yogurt cups from its operations. Preserve also gets waste PP from others partners it's worked with over its 15-year history.

Like other recycled-content plastic, Preserve's plastic has a smaller footprint than virgin PP, using about half the electricity, water and coal, emitting 64 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions and using about 75 percent less oil and natural gas as virgin PP.

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