Plastics: The Floss Pick Dilemma Grows

I’ve been participating in a sort of game involving floss picks. You know, the plastic picks that help you floss your teeth with ease. Unfortunately, while dental hygiene seems to be on an upward trend, concern for the earth is on a downward spiral. My friend Colleen started a photo album on Facebook to chronicle discarded floss picks from around the world. And once you see the photos you can’t unsee them. Seriously, you will now start noticing floss picks everywhere. In addition to snapping a photo, part of the game is to also note where the nearest trash can is and shake your head at how lazy and inconsiderate folks are. To do your part, pick up the picks and toss them in the trash. Bonus points if you take it to a recycling bin. But for the most part these picks aren’t on the list of plastics that are easily recycled.

Fortunately, The American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Plastics Division recently announced ambitious goals that crystalize U.S. plastics resin producers’ commitment to recycle or recover plastics. While this initiative is aimed at plastic packaging, there is a trickle-down effect that will help find better homes for these floss picks, I hope.

“We are embracing the drive toward a circular economy for plastics because it helps demonstrate our overarching commitment to sustainable materials management,” said Steve Russell, ACC’s vice president of plastics, in a press release.

To achieve these goals, plastic resin producers plan to focus on six key areas: designing new products for greater efficiency, recycling and reuse; developing new technologies and systems for collecting, sorting, recycling and recovering materials; making it easier for more consumers to participate in recycling and recovery programs; expanding the types of plastics collected and repurposed; aligning products with key end markets; and expanding awareness that used plastics are valuable resources awaiting their next use.

Last year I wrote about Hungry Caterpillars Could Eliminate Plastic Waste – it was an accidental discovery that led researchers to witness that 100 worms can devour 92 milligrams of polyethylene in as little as 12 hours. The grubs appear to break down polyethylene with the same enzymes they use for eating beeswax.

On that same trail, this short video from The Guardian explains how a plastic-eating enzyme can help fight pollution.


Traci-bio-photo.jpgTraci Purdum is Chemical Processing’s senior digital editor and floss pick spotter. She knows there are floss picks out there designed with a biodegradable handle made from starch-based resins. But the fact remains that people are too lazy to toss them in the trash. If you spot a floss pick, you can send the photo evidence to her at tpurdum@putman.net. #LeaveNoTrace #flosspicksighting