About a month ago, I started my journey with Invisalign — the barrage of Instagram ads of people showing off their perfect, post-treatment teeth had finally gotten to me. I left my orthodontist's office that day with a box of nearly 40 sets of plastic aligners. So far, I've only made it to my fourth set, but as my journey continues and I switch out my aligners every week, I couldn't help but wonder the best way to dispose of them. Can invisible aligners be recycled or repurposed at all?
The answer to both of those questions is no, and there's a pretty simple reason. "Although plastic aligners may seem like recyclable objects, they are in fact considered medical waste and must be discarded in the trash," dentist Daniel Rubinshtein told POPSUGAR. "Plastic trays are also comprised of a mixture of plastics, which makes it difficult to determine the proper recycling method. There are currently not many ways to repurpose plastic aligners, but I think that's a great market which should be explored further."
Invisible aligners are made from medical-grade plastic, and since your teeth are obviously supposed to shift the more that you wear them, each set of aligners fits differently, meaning you can't go back and reuse them unless instructed by your orthodontist. They also can't be reused by anyone else because, aside from the fact that that would be gross, they're customized to each person's mouth.
"I always recommend my patients hold on to the immediate past aligner just in case they lose their current aligner," Joseph Field, DDS, said. "That way they can use the last one to help hold the teeth in place until a new aligner is manufactured."
If you're currently receiving treatment via plastic aligners, it's recommended that you either throw away your trays after use or given them back to your orthodontist to discard in a medical waste bag.