Why do I see dental floss picks all over town?
July 24, 2018 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Why am I seeing so many dental floss picks on the street?

This is something I have been noticing for the past six months or so.

I am seeing these disposable plastic dental floss picks (green version) constantly, mixed in with normal street litter at intersections and near curbs.

Is there a reason that these are suddenly all over the place? Is it just that they have become more popular in general and they make their way as litter?
posted by amicamentis to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I see them too, like lots of them. Many people act like pigs and have no shame about littering. What's even worse, people are walking down the street using the pics. ugh!!

Should we give them points for taking care of their dental hygiene?
posted by james33 at 7:44 AM on July 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

Previously x2.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 7:44 AM on July 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

At least previously and previouslier. This is a bizarrely popular question!
posted by phunniemee at 7:44 AM on July 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

Beat to the punch on the previouslies!. Ever since that question, I've noticed them all over, even though I've never seen anyone use them in public. Unproven theory: they are small and can slip out of garbage cans when they're being emptied, but don't break down like tissues and aren't repurposed for nest building like regular floss/string.
posted by Fig at 7:49 AM on July 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

Hygiene punks
posted by Glomar response at 7:52 AM on July 24, 2018 [13 favorites]

lazy flossers
posted by hydra77 at 8:39 AM on July 24, 2018

I work for a company that makes these... We are currently working on a few solutions here. We just recently added a zip-close to the bags instead of the bags that tend to pop open. We are researching additional materials that we could make these picks out of that would be all around more eco-friendly, but also (hopefully) not cost $10 for a bag of 50 of them.

Unfortunately the market has determined they prefer the cheapest possible option for these things. So, if we were to go all-wood with these picks, people would just buy the cheaper ones from our competitors. Hopefully we can find a happy medium.

There's other solutions - we are trying to use less plastic in each pick, and working on a few other things in the pipeline, but those are all farther away. In the end, any plastic is bad plastic in terms of waste. We've minimized the industrial waste from our plants (all plastic byproducts get recycled, among other issues) but the issue here seems to be more about LITTER than actual waste. I personally hope that the new zipper helps with the problem.

But really, if you want flossers that don't have plastic, you can buy about 300 yards of floss for $2 right next to them in the aisle.
posted by bbqturtle at 8:44 AM on July 24, 2018 [46 favorites]

Oh, and yes, these have grown in popularity significantly in the last 5-7 years.
posted by bbqturtle at 8:45 AM on July 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

But really, if you want flossers that don't have plastic, you can buy about 300 yards of floss for $2 right next to them in the aisle.

Yes, but you can't use that floss while driving. These floss picks let you drive with one hand. So clearly the problem is, people don't want to stick it in their pocket after using it, because it's been in their mouth, the way they might pocket a gum wrapper. And if they're driving they don't want the saliva-covered thing in their car, either.

A similar phenomenon is the dog poop bag. Somehow people go through the trouble of picking up the poop into a bag, but then tossing the bag into the gutter or bushes rather than carrying it home or to a trash can.

Some municipalities have banned plastic shopping bags and are considering bans on plastic straws. Maybe they should add plastic flossers to the list.
posted by beagle at 9:09 AM on July 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

Since my response to one of those previous questions, I found myself looking for them in the UK. Still not spotted a single dental floss pick as litter in the UK, so I think that my previous answer still stands.
posted by Vortisaur at 9:45 AM on July 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

You may also be experiencing the frequency illusion, aka the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. Simply put; the more you're aware of a thing, the more often you'll notice seeing it.
posted by Nelson at 10:03 AM on July 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Maybe it has something to do with all of the chicken wing bones?
posted by mumblelard at 2:14 PM on July 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Holy crap! My search terms must have been way off the mark looking for older Asks. Thanks everyone!
posted by amicamentis at 2:36 PM on July 24, 2018

I recently had a tooth break. The dentist was able to put a filling in temporarily, but it isn't close enough to the neighbor tooth and will require a crown in the near future.

In the meantime, there is a gap there just big enough to get food stuck in it every single time I eat. So I bought a bag of these picks at the Dollar Tree and they have been so much more convenient than floss because they can actually "pry" the food particle out, whereas floss can only "nudge" it around.

I re-use them until they snap in two and throw them in the garbage (although I've accidentally put a couple through the wash before). I don't see it as unhygienic, really. And I couldn't tell you why people throw them on the ground. But, anecdotally, they are really quite useful.
posted by tacodave at 2:51 PM on July 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

@bbqturtle, could you add a side pocket to the package where i could store my used pick 'til i get to a trash can?
posted by at at 12:44 AM on July 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

@at - I'm not sure. I like the idea - I'll run it past the PD&D teams - but it would add a few cents, and I'm not sure how big of an impact it would make; it seems like most people that discard them are discarding unused flossers from a spilled bag more than used ones (if you look close enough). Second, I'm not sure the people that are littering these are as conscientious as you. Last, if we increase the cost of the bag too much, we'll lose to our competitors that don't have the better zipper close, and the shift might have a net negative effect.

I'll still run it past them!
posted by bbqturtle at 5:32 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

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