NZDF Soldier Develops Pilot Project to Reduce Plastic Footprint

4 July 2019

Amid rising concern worldwide about the environmental impact of plastic waste, a New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) soldier has started a pilot project to collect empty tubes of toothpaste, old toothbrushes and dental product packaging for recycling.

A chance encounter with a representative from consumer products company Colgate-Palmolive at a conference in early 2018 led New Zealand Army Corporal Nicole McCown to join the Oral Care Recycling Programme, the company’s joint initiative with United States-based recycling company TerraCycle.

Since February 2018, Corporal McCown has been encouraging the estimated 900 military and civilian personnel working at Trentham Military Camp in Upper Hutt to send her used toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, dental floss containers and other packaging for recycling.

“Oral care products and their packaging, which are widely thought to be non-recyclable, can actually be recycled,” said Corporal McCown, an Oral Health Therapist at the Defence Dental Centre in Trentham.

“We give out a lot of products that are recyclable and, through this pilot, have been contributing to efforts to reduce avoidable plastic waste.”

Corporal McCown sends the plastic waste to the New Zealand branch of TerraCycle and the company turns it into raw materials for new products such as garden beds, park benches and playground equipment.

“Plastic waste has become an emerging environmental issue, with plastics finding their way into the human food chain. So every plastic bottle or container that does not end up in a landfill or in the ocean counts,” Corporal McCown said.

“What we are doing makes a small difference but the important thing is that it makes a difference.”

By taking part in the recycling programme Corporal McCown earns points, which are then redeemed to her chosen charity – Wellington Free Ambulance. Every 1000 points is equivalent to 10 New Zealand dollars.

To reduce their plastic footprint, the Defence Dental Centres at Trentham, Wellington and Linton have stopped using plastic cups. Cardboard and plastic packaging for oral care products are also reused.

This page was last reviewed on 4 July 2019.