Environmental Impact of Teeth Whitening Strips

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Environmental Impact of Teeth Whitening Strips

Key Takeaways

  • Sustainability practices in the oral healthcare industry generally consist of producing zero-waste and plastic-free packaging and products, using non-toxic and natural ingredients, vegan and cruelty-free development practices and new innovations such as water-free products.
  • One of the most innovative new oral care products to come onto the market, Burst's water flosser is a handheld cordless alternative to traditional dental floss which provides a sustainable, zero-waste solution.
  • Crest Teeth Whitening Strips contain ingredients which were largely found to be non-toxic and safe from a sustainability standpoint.

Introductions

  • Research considers sustainability in the oral healthcare industry. The information provided is sourced from available data in the public domain, generally consisting of online articles and blogs, published studies and research, and industry analysis.
  • Part I consists of information on new sustainable oral care products. Part II focuses on sustainable ingredients.

Part I — Sustainable Oral Care Products

i) Elims Magic Teeth Whitening Masks
Product and Process
  • 2021 saw environmentally friendly oral care brand Elims launch new teeth whitening solutions with a focus on both safety and sustainability. The company developed a range of 'melt-away' teeth whitening masks, incorporating natural ingredients which dissolve stains and brighten teeth.
  • The new range of products were crafted and created by dentists, using a combination of the best of scientific knowledge and eco-friendly practices, to develop a sustainable, safe (for sensitive teeth), clinically backed alternative to some of the most environmentally damaging everyday oral care products. This new line of teeth whitening masks were found to whiten teeth up to 7 shades lighter, in the space of 14 days, without causing damage to the enamel. The product was found to be more effective than leading and competing whitening strips and alternative products available, according to the results of an independent study, conducted by the Cardiff Dental School.
Consumer Messaging
  • Elims core focus is to bring new, innovative and more eco-friendly solutions to the oral care sector. In addition to scientifically-backed ingredients, and more recyclable and sustainable responsible packaging, one of the company's key initiatives are their industry partnerships, two of the most notable being collaborations with Carbonfund.org and TerraCycle, the object of which is to offset the environmental impact of their practices, and to make recycling of old oral care products free and accessible to all.
  • The company promote the product with the tagline "Best Sustainable Teeth Whitening 2021", a reference to a recent award by industry experts Healthline. The company also claim the product is "Clinically proven to whiten up to 7 shades lighter in 14 days" and that it is "Enamel Safe". The product benefits are listed as being "crafted by dentists for sensitive teeth", and Elims also promote the fact that it is vegan friendly and gluten-free, and has never been tested on animals.
Sustainability Benefits
  • Elims magic melt-away teeth whitening masks can be applied in a very quick and efficient way, and the masks fully dissolve after use, meaning they avoid the use of trays, LED lights or removable strips often used in alternative products.
  • Contains 33% less packaging than other whitening strips, and is 100% recyclable at home or with Terracycle. Product does not contain any parabens, toxins, SLS (an artificial foaming agent), or any artificial colors or flavors.
  • One step process with no clean up required after or any waste products. In addition to this, Elims sending customers a prepaid shipping label, allowing them to ship a minimum of five oral care waste products, including toothpaste tubes, caps, toothbrushes, floss containers, etc., from any brand, to the company for recycling through their partner TerraCycle.
ii) Huppy Toothpaste Tablets
Product and Process
  • Innovative solution to the issue of disposable toothpaste tubes. Toothpaste tablets are an environmentally-friendly alternative to non-recyclable plastic toothpaste tubes, billions of which are produced annually. Toothpaste tablets are a plastic-free, all-natural toothpaste alternative. A solid form of toothpaste, containing only natural ingredients which are effective and safe. To use, simply chew a toothpaste tab until it breaks into pieces and brush with a wet toothbrush, before rinsing.
Consumer Messaging
  • Described as toothpaste 'but way better', Huppy advertise the environmental benefits, stating that "20 billion non-recyclable, plastic toothpaste tubes are made every single year. And that’s why we’re here: to make way for more sustainable and healthier smiles". They promote the product as being "clean and effective, planet friendly, and cruelty-free", and state that they are "Award-winning toothpaste tablets and the rest of the fam(ily) are 100% plastic free, sustainably minded, and made with clean ingredients".
Sustainability Benefits
  • Natural ingredients, and provide a solution to the issue of non-recyclable toothpaste tubes. The company also provide refillable containers to help further cut down on packaging, and n-HAP, a non-toxic fluoride alternative.
  • Developed using natural ingredients, and without the use of fluoride. Instead, uses an alternative called nano-hydroxyapatite. Tablets are plastic-free and zero waste.
iii) Sustainable Toothpaste
Product and Process
  • With many companies developing new solutions for sustainable toothpaste, a new product by eco-friendly premium oral care brand OJOOK has been awarded "Best Sustainable Toothpaste 2021" by industry experts Healthline. Made without many of the chemicals present in other toothpastes, the company’s toothpaste is formulated with just a mere 12 ingredients, which include nano-hydroxyapatite, designed to remineralize enamel, while preventing sensitivity. Bamboo salt is another ingredient which helps maintain healthy gums, as well as freshens breath.
Consumer Messaging
  • OJOOK advertise the scientific and purposeful ingredients, stating "Our gentle, everyday toothpaste reduces plaque build-up and bacteria, and is formulated with nano-hydroxyapatite (nHA) to remineralize enamel and prevent sensitivity. Alkaline 9x roasted bamboo salt restores ideal mouth chemistry, promoting healthy gums and fresh breath". They also list some benefits, including how Nano-hydroxyapatite (nHA) "remineralizes teeth, preventing cavity, brightening teeth and alleviating sensitivity", and provide detailed information of the benefits of other ingredients, such as bamboo salt, xylitol, and pine tree oil.
Sustainability Benefits
  • Packaged in a recyclable aluminum tube, meaning zero plastic waste. The brand also sells bamboo toothbrushes which have compostable handles. Another innovative new product are their biodegradable dental floss range, made from Italian silk and treated with bamboo salt and ethical beeswax. Throughout the company's product line, through their ingredients, formulas and packaging the company demonstrates a first class commitment to sustainability.
iv) Georganics Mouthwash Tablets
Product and Process
  • Similar to the concept of toothpaste tablets, Georganics have developed a new eco-friendly alternative to traditional mouthwash. To take, simply drop one tablet into a glass of water, and the product is ready to use. Several online reviews of the product have been positive, particularly noting that the tablets fizz nicely, and don’t burn like some traditional mouthwashes, providing a gentle and clean feeling.
Consumer Messaging
  • Georganics provide detailed information about the company, the ingredients they use, the eco-packaging and their suppliers. They also communicate through a series of online articles and blogs. Most of the messaging they provide details their commitment to sustainability and their company values and practices.
Sustainability Benefits
  • Plastic-free packaging, and water -free product. Water-free products have the added benefit of not only consuming less packaging, but also having a smaller footprint due to the reduced weight and size. Zero-waste, vegan, gluten-free and cruelty-free product.
  • Made from entirely natural, food grade and non-toxic ingredients. Tablets have a fluoride, glycerin and SLS free formula.
v) Burst Water Flosser
Product and Process
  • Water flossers are a new sustainable alternative to dental floss. These products usually involve the concept of using a stream of high-pressure pulsating water, to remove dental plaque and food debris from between teeth, and below the gum line. Recent studies have shown that water flossers are capable of being just as effective as traditional flossing, and removing just as much, if not more, plaque from teeth after brushing. The Burst Water Flosser is a new handheld water flosser.
Consumer Messaging
  • Described as the "perfect addition to your flossing routine", the company claim that the product does the hard work usually associated with traditional flossing, making for a hassle-free process. They also promise the product provides you with the freshest breath, allowing you to "precisely spray between your teeth to dislodge food and bad bacteria", and that it "gently cleans between your teeth and massages gums", leaving you with a healthier smile, and the improved condition of your teeth and oral hygiene will impress dentists.
Sustainability Benefits
  • Advantages over traditional flossing include zero waste, plastic and paper free and no packaging. This is especially relevant as dental floss typically contains non-recyclable elements.
  • Burst Water Flosser is handheld water flosser, which therefore eliminates the separate tank, cord, hose, and wand of traditional versions.

Part II — Sustainable Ingredients of Crest Whitening Strips

  • The active ingredients in Crest Whitening Strips include the following. For the teeth whitening agent, ingredients are listed as Glycerin, Hydrogen Peroxide, Carbomer, Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), PEG, Acrylates Copolymer, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Saccharin, and Pyrophosphate. For the strip and backing ingredients are listed as Polyethylene and Polypropylene.
  • Studies indicate that Glycerin is not toxic to human health, or to the environment. Further to this, Glycerin seems to be a key ingredient with the drive to sustainability and an online article from 2019 reports that the production and development of natural and sustainable glycerin soaps are on the increase. Cosmetic business noted that the glycerin soap category was driving improved sustainability.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide is an eco-friendly ingredient. This compound is formed of water with an oxygen molecule, and is naturally-occurring, formed by sunlight acting on water> Hydrogen peroxide is produced by both plant and animal cells, making it an environmentally friendly product. It is a very deisrable product from a biological standpoint, as it breaks down into water and oxygen molecules, making it biodegradable. It is also a much greener alternative to chlorine bleach, which is also used for cleaning purposes. Despite this, there are perceived dangers with it's use as a bleaching chemical, and the need to clean up production of the compound has been widely reported. In terms of sustainability, there have been practices of the production of hydrogen peroxide as a sustainable solar fuel.
  • There is little published research on the environmental friendliness of Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), but although facts published on the environmental fate of PVP have been scant, there are some studies which report that PVP is a biologically resistant polymer. Consequently, this implies that the commercially produced water-soluble polymers of both PVA and PVP are essentially non-biodegradable, while also possessing the capacity to accumulate in virtually all environmental media.
  • Sodium Hydroxide is not biodegradable and is highly corrosive. However, according to studies carried out in the field, sodium hydroxide will be neutralized by acidity present in natural environment.
  • Sodium Saccharin is used as a sweetener. A recent published study suggested that sweeteners such as Saccharin can pose an environmental threat. Environmental Science and Technology's study revealed large amounts of sucralose, saccharin, aspartame and acesulfame near sewage treatment plants, with the conclusion being that sweeteners can damage plants' ability to perform photosynthesis.
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