An old product gets a fresh start in Brazil.
Empty toothpaste tubes that end up in the trash and take years to degrade are being transformed into eco-friendly furniture, roof tiles and construction materials.
The process takes place at the Alluse plant in Pernambuco, located in the northeastern part of the country. About 400 tons of trash are delivered each month, containing defective tubes that are discarded by their manufacturers.
The plastic and aluminum tubes are crushed by machines. The debris is then mixed with resins and ‘baked’ at high temperatures, producing a stack of light and water resistant boards and sheets that are used as building materials.
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Factory owner Sebastiao Rufino Barbosa says the re-purposed product sets an example for sustainability.
“There is an interesting ecological feature. If I used wood, I would be taking it from forests and would not replace it. Here I am using what would be considered garbage. The forest is thanking me and, in the same time, we are using an environment friendly material.”
Roof tiles are the most popular item produced at the factory.
Forty thousand tiles are churned out monthly, each one made from 1,000 empty toothpaste tubes. The tiles are highly resistant and more cost effective than tiles made of clay, steel or aluminum, according to salesman Agnaldo da Costa.
He says, “It’s a very good material, very resistant and helps isolate heat. During rainy seasons, other materials let too much noise in while this one doesn’t.”
The green material’s durability is put to the test in local classrooms too.
School director Maria de Lourdes Negro Monte plans to buy more of the colorful desks and hopes other schools districts will follow her lead.
“We think it is very interesting and we need all authorities to see the way we are reusing things that would be thrown away, disposed. This is what we need to do to contribute to save the environment.”
Alluse is focused on producing roof tiles and furniture for now, but the company says they plan to squeeze more green products out of these tubes in the future.
Bottom line: A small factory in Brazil’s northeast is bringing smiles to the faces of environmentalists by turning used toothpaste tubes into furniture and roof tiles. One of the beneficiaries is a local school where the children are learning that regular brushing is not only good for the teeth, but can also help the environment.