Preserve: Proving Plastic Needn't Be Bad for the Environment

A Father's Lesson Inspires Groundbreaking Company: The Preserve Story

When Preserve founder Eric Hudson was meeting with plastics manufacturers back in the mid-'90s to make the first toothbrush for his new company, he would start by talking about how it would encourage better brushing.

Specifically, Hudson would walk would-be manufacturers through the unique forward-angle design, which he created with the help of his dad, a former car and boat designer.

It wasn't until the third or fourth meeting, when he thought he might have them sold on the idea, that Hudson would tell them what really made his brushes special.

Hudson didn't want to make the brushes out of new plastic, which is easy to work with. He wanted to use recycled plastics -- and not just any plastic, but No. 5 polypropylene, the stuff yogurt cups and bottle tops are made out of. At the time, most of it was ending up in landfills.

Out of that trash, Preserve would come to produce an entirely different creation.

Chapter 1: Redefining Sustainability

Hudson's reluctance to mention his vision upfront may seem strange now, but in the mid-1990s recycling was just gaining a foothold across America. While cities had begun collecting plastic, there were very few useful products being made from it, and none were being made from No. 5 polypropylene.

Hudson was neither a plastics expert nor an environmental crusader. But the Massachusetts native and former Fidelity securities trader was fresh out of Babson College, where he'd picked up an MBA and nurtured his entrepreneurial spirit. His grandparents were the founders of Brookstone, and his father was an industrial engineer. After years of trading stock, he longed to create something real. Now he just needed a product.

Credit: Lee StraussAmong the household goods Preserve produces using recycled plastics are colanders.
He'd always cared about the environment, and after reading a news story about the Fresh Kills Landfill on New York's Staten Island -- which was turning away trash barges because it was bursting at the seams with garbage -- an idea started taking shape.

"I remember reading about this and going, 'We're really running out of landfill space,' " Hudson says. "We really need to take on this recycling challenge and say, 'We've got to start converting this stuff into useful products made in the United States of America.' "

Speaking of useful products, Hudson had long been kicking around an idea for a backward-sloping toothbrush or idea for a reverse-angle toothbrush -- one that would allow him to brush as his dentist had always instructed. He worked with plastics and dental experts on the design, and a few months after submitting plans to the Food and Drug Administration, he was given the green light. Now he just needed a manufacturer.

Recycled plastics don't always melt and blend as neatly as virgin materials, so they can be hard to work with. Hudson eventually found a company in Tennessee willing to take up the challenge.

The next challenge would be find consumers to buy it and use it. Did the world need another toothbrush, especially one made out of garbage?

"Does it make sense to launch a product everybody uses, and that everybody uses in their mouth, made from recycled materials?" Hudson remembers asking himself. "Is this OK?"

Two decades later, the answer is yes.

Preserve is now a well-established company with 13 employees, a massive supply chain, and four manufacturing partners making not just toothbrushes, but also razors, reusable tableware -- including plates, cups, and cutlery -- and kitchenware items like colanders and food-storage containers.

Hudson no longer downplays the environmental angle. He puts it right on the company's packaging: "Made with love and recycled yogurt cups."

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Michelle 2016

July 11 2014 at 6:29 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Here's an update on this: Tooth decay is not caused by, for example, sugars. WHAT ? Yep.
The tooth decay is caused by a bacteria that attaches to your teeth called Streptococcus Mutans.
It's this bacteria that eats the sugar and produces the acid that causes cavities, not the sugar itself.
Brushing with your toothbrush can actually spread the S. Mutans bacteria around and on to your teeth.
How can you tell if your mouth is infested with bacteria ? Dip your toothbrush into a small cup of
hydrogen peroxide. If it foams like an Alka-Seltzer tablet, then you have bacteria.
Of course throw that toothbrush into the trash and get a new electric one.
You can kill the S. Mutans bacteria by gargling with an antiseptic like Listerine.

July 11 2014 at 6:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to alfredschrader's comment

Of course EVERYTHING dipped into hydrogen peroxide
foams like crazy. Got any other suggestions?

Here's one. Flouride

July 11 2014 at 10:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We need all our products Made in America! Better quality because it's made right here at home!
We need to get rid of that TAX LOOP that makes it possible for manufacturers to outsource our jobs and hide their profits in overseas tax havens. Remember, every outsourced job pays NO
taxes to this country; no Federal, Medicare, or Social Security tax. That is why our country is
in financial trouble!

July 11 2014 at 2:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Glad to see at least one American product "Made in America".

July 10 2014 at 8:56 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply