Is plastic really the great evil?
There are many factors to consider in answering this question. How long does the plastic get used? Will it definitely be recycled? These are important questions in a world with 7 billion people and growing at about 1 billion every 12 years.1
On the consumption side, the use of single-use plastic products is high. On the recycling side, recycling is low. In the US, only about 5% of plastic gets recycled, so 95% ends up either in the landfill or in oceans and streams.2 Elsewhere it could be even worse.
With such a large population and relatively so little being recycled, plastic consumption is a major issue for people and the planet.
"I was recently on a favorite swimming beach and saw the undulating ribbon of darker debris at the high-tide mark reflecting on the sand. Closer inspection showed that the line consisted mostly of microplastics, and if it is here at water’s edge, it is certainly throughout tens of thousands of miles of open ocean."
Colin Davis, Founder of DrTung’s
Humans can choose to supplement their diets with herbs and botanicals. Sea life has no choice but to unwittingly consume our micro-waste that cannot be digested. Single-use plastics like water bottles, cups, bags, utensils, and packaging material are major culprits. Let’s also not forget toothpaste tubes, toothbrushes, soap bottles and similar, whose polluting life is relatively endless, 100 years or more.
But our mission is not to complain about the state of affairs and what others may or may not be doing as living beings on this planet but rather, how DrTung’s is innovating in the most natural way — making sure that we support the planet and its life forms, while helping people’s oral health.
Health benefits should be both short and longer-term but like footprints in the sand, what we leave behind should ideally be temporary — seen and perhaps heard, but not damaging.
In 2008 we began our quest to reduce plastic waste by adding EcoPure® additive to our floss container. It was an innovative technology at the time — making plastic appealing to microorganisms so they can then digest it and break it down into organic matter. We did our own lab tests to understand if indeed this forward-thinking technology did help enhance degradability of plastic. Results were extremely encouraging, indicating 40% degradability in landfill conditions in just 13 months. Regular, untreated plastic could take up to 100 years to degrade in these conditions. We immediately went onboard to create a smaller footprint.
Then, some 6 years ago, seeing great strides in research into new materials such as those based on algae or other bio-materials, we decided to move forward with slowly phasing out the plastic floss dispenser.
PLA (polylactic acid-based) resins were being touted as the next solution, but we were very skeptical. Not only is most PLA made from corn — a crop that is highly genetically modified — but end-of-life for this material is problematic. It needs specific industrial facilities. What’s more, if it ends up in the plastic recycling stream, it causes issues to the recycling process.
This is still true today, so when you see PLA or ‘renewable plant-based’ or ‘natural corn material’, and similar advertising ploys, check to see what really is behind these slogans.
Further motivated by a few of our innovative and enthusiastic customers, who were not only concerned about the dispenser, but also the clear plastic blister — we moved forward as quickly as possible with trying to develop a new solution.
Along the way…
We contracted with a design firm in Italy some 5 years ago, to move from our iconic round floss container to something equally recognizable and convenient, but more ‘eco-friendly’ and biodegradable. We were really happy with the end-result — a simple yet practical ‘pillow box’ that belies the efforts, iterations and materials behind this final design.
Yes, we looked at alternative materials, including algae-based and those made with paper pulp. But the final choice of our paperboard pillow pack has the advantage of being FSC-certified, so we know it is balanced with safe and desirable agricultural and recycling practices.
In 2019 this packaging received international recognition and won awards from both the IF Design Awards as well as Good Design, organizations that together have over 100 years of leadership expertise in the design sphere.
We started using this packaging a few years ago with a new product — Activated Charcoal Floss. This was the perfect test for the new packaging — the new product required smaller production runs so was feasible even with the ‘labor-intensive” packaging.
We make our floss in Italy which comes with some distinct advantages — including high labor standards, material and manufacturing consistency and the best quality. But labor costs are higher than in some other countries where most other brands make their floss. Filling and packing our dispensers by hand was not workable for the volume of Smart Floss we produce. In addition, only regular ‘blister card' machinery was commonly available.
We could not compromise on anything. We had to be very patient and design, build and test our own packaging machinery in Europe — from the ground up! This new one-of-a-kind machinery helped make Smart Floss available and affordable in its new packaging.
The result is an award-winning package that is eye-catching, affordable, convenient to use, recyclable, has enough water-resistance to maintain its integrity in the bathroom — and, as you wanted, is biodegradable.
Of course, inside the dispenser is the best floss in the world, with natural wax and free of PTFE and PFAS chemicals, petrochemical (microcrystalline) wax commonly found in mainstream brands. Our floss is as good as ever, and we even found a new wood-based cellulose for the pouch inside the paperboard pillow to help maintain cleanliness and freshness.
We thank all our customers and appreciate your motivation in encouraging us along the way.
For healthier teeth and gums, you can trust DrTung’s.