The Environmental Impact of Clear Aligner Treatment

Updated Date: Reading Time: 6 min 0 Comment
 A picture showing the impact on the environment

The field of orthodontics has changed significantly over the last several years. Braces that were once obviously visible on almost every smile are becoming more and more a thing of the past.

The use of clear aligners, a revolutionary almost-invisible concept, has proven to be a popular choice for those wanting to remain unnoticed on the way to a straight smile

However, at the same time, there is a question as to whether this growing trend has an environmental impact: would clear aligners be harmful to Earth? While they come with several individual benefits to the patient, the environment’s perspective of these products should not be ignored.

In this blog, one can find what the potential areas of concern regarding clear aligners’ environmental impact are and whether there are sustainable practices in the industry; the second part will discuss a groundbreaking brand that makes strides towards greener options, SmilePath.

Take SmilePath’s Free Assessmentto Know Your Eligibility

The Rise of Clear Aligners: Convenience with a Potential Cost

Clear aligner trays
Clear aligner trays

Clear aligners are trays made of medical-grade thermoplastic that are made to fit a person’s teeth. A new set replaces the trays every two weeks to gradually move the teeth into the correct alignment.

The market for clear aligners has expanded exponentially for the following reasons:

Discreet treatment

While its functionality is similar to that of traditional braces, clear aligners differ noticeably in appearance as they are nearly indetectable, making them an optimal choice for patients regardless of their age.


The plastic trays are fitted smoothly eliminating metal brackets and wires associated with other weird and discomfort feelings.

Removable trays

The fact that clear aligners permit eating without taking them off, as well as brushing and flossing, empowers consumers to take care of their teeth during treatment.

That resulting regiment of demand, in turn, implies the key issue of plastic waste produced. Each time a set of clear aligners is changed every month or two weeks, plastic waste accumulates, causing a high amount of landfill for the treatment, which can take about two years.

Environmental Concerns: Where Does the Impact Lie?

The environmental impact of clear aligners stems primarily from the following factors:

Plastic usage

The largest proportion of clear aligners are produced today from several types of plastic, one of very few non-biodegradable materials. This plastic goes to the landfills and it would take a hundred years to decompose and probably leak harmful chemicals into the environment through soil and water.

Manufacturing process

The operations of clear aligner manufacturing as an energy-intensive process are a significant energy guzzler, producing greenhouse gasses which in turn accelerate climate change.


Many shippers of clear aligners use an excessive amount of packaging materials like cardboard boxes and plastic which, in turn, increases the garbage burden.

Quantification of clear aligner environmental impact is a subject of ongoing investigation, and this topic is quite sensitive as this kind of pollution can get into ecosystems and damage them.

Here are some of the potential environmental consequences to consider:

Plastic pollution in landfills

The amount of plastic waste in landfills we already have would increase with the increasing number of littered clear aligners. This plastic might be able to degrade for hundreds of years into the soil and groundwater a chemical which will be perceived as harmful.

Harm to marine life

It has been scientifically proven that plastic waste from landfills can pollute water pages thereby putting the lives of marine organisms at the highest risk.

Seabirds and marine mammals may consider polyethylene bags a feed by taking them in their mouths, or others may end up ingesting cosmetics or other toiletries from plastics, thereby leading to entanglement, internal injuries, and even death.


Through time, plastic assumes the form of micro fragments referred to as microplastics that are smaller and smaller as the process continues.

These microplastics can get inside the food chain which can be a cause of health issues in humans and destroy the ecosystem.

Seeking a Sustainable Smile: Can We Have Both Straight Teeth and a Healthy Planet?

Fortunately, the clear aligner sector is responding to environmental worries and exploring ways to reduce ecological repercussions.

Biodegradable materials

Studies are being conducted to design aligners from vegetable origin or other biodegradable materials. Though not yet widespread, these developments represent an environmentally friendly alternative for the future.

Recycling programs

While some clear aligner companies have started take-back programs to collect used aligners and look into recycling options;

Reduced packaging

Companies are looking for ways to minimize the use of packaging materials by using recycled cardboard or choosing smaller, more efficient packaging alternatives.

Besides, the consumers also assume a significant part in enhancing sustainable approaches in the field of clear aligners.

  • Search for businesses that are aggressively involved in the development of biodegradable materials, have recycling programs, and minimal packaging waste.
  • Follow the disposal instructions your clear aligner company gives you. Certain brands might develop their trade-back programs, so ask about them.
  • Depending on your misalignment level, metal braces could be the most eco-friendly choice in some cases

SmilePath: Straightening Smiles with Sustainability in Mind

clear aligners
A woman with clear aligners

SmilePath recognizes that there is a priority of not only gaining a beautiful smile but also limiting our negative impact on the environment at once. We are committed to responsible and sustainable practices throughout the clear aligner treatment process:

Sustainable Material Exploration

Being a pioneer, SmilePath is an avid observer of the utilization of biocompatible and possibly degradable materials in its clear aligners.

Our current use of medical-grade plastic to fulfill the objective of effectiveness and safety is just for the short term. Nevertheless, we are determined to discover new environment-friendly solutions for the future.

Reduced Packaging

SmilePath prioritizes minimalistic packaging. For our aligner shipping boxes, we purposefully source recycled cardboard and strive to use minimal plastic within the package itself.

At-Home Impression Kit

SmilePath provides an at-home impression kit which saves you from frequent clinic appointments and travels and, as a result, reduces its surrounding environment impact by the latter.

Free Assessment

We realize that your clear aligner treatment enforcement is going to need your commitment. SmilePath is offering free assessment to ensure that you sign up for the right treatment option to meet your smile needs.

Ready to take the first step towards a straighter smile and a greener future?

Unlike traditional braces, which are relatively uncomfortable, noisy and less fashionable, SmilePath's aligners are much more discreet and comfortable.

To that, we also attempt to involve our patients in sustainability processes, such as reducing the use of plastic packaging and teaching recycling techniques.

Contact SmilePath’s customer care department today and get all you need about a free assessment as well as an at-home impression kit. Together, we will attain safe, radiant smiles thus preserving our environment unscathed.

Contact SmilePath’s Team at 1300 404 171


1. Are clear aligners bad for the environment?

Yes and no. Yet, even though most clear aligners are of plastic, other companies are moving to biodegradable alternatives. More specifically, the production and disposal of them may result in waste. On the contrary, it is turning to more eco-friendly processes such as programs for recycling.

2. How can I choose a sustainable clear aligner company?

Search for companies that employ biodegradable materials and reduce packaging along with at-home mould impression kits for a reduction in travel emissions.

3. What can I do as a consumer to minimize the environmental impact?

Go for sustainable companies, recycle your aligners (if there are take-back programs available), and be open to regular braces if you are a candidate.

4. Does SmilePath offer sustainable clear aligners?

Sustainability is very important to SmilePath’s mission, so explorations into biodegradable materials, minimal packaging with recycled cardboard, and at-home impression kits are considered.

5. Can I learn more about SmilePath's commitment to sustainability?

Absolutely! SmilePath offers a no-charge initial assessment where you can explain your teeth alignment issues. Now is the time to reach out to them.

  • Ezabell Turner

    Ezabell Turner

    Content Contributor

    Meet Emma Turner, a creative mind with a flair for design and an ardent supporter of SmilePath’s mission. Emma's journey intertwines her passion for aesthetics and the transformative impact of a beautiful smile. Her blogs reflect her keen eye for detail and a genuine desire to share real stories of... Read More

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  • Dr. Narmeen

    Dr. Narmeen

    Medical Reviewer

    Dr. Narmeen is a dedicated and passionate orthodontist at SmilePath Australia, committed to creating confident smiles through exceptional orthodontic care. With her in-depth knowledge and experience in orthodontics, Dr. Narmeen provides patients of all ages with personalized treatment plans to achieve their desired results. Her areas of expertise include invisible... Read More

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