Each year, 1 billion toothbrushes are thrown in the US. That is 50 million pounds of toothbrushes added to landfills and enough to stretch around the Earth 4 times. If every citizen uses plastic toothbrushes and replaces them every 3-4 months, that makes roughly 29 billion toothbrushes ending up in the rubbish bin each year. One average, the whole humanity would produce 600 million kilograms of plastic toothbrush waste in only 365 days.
Here are some points for you to consider as you make up your mind:
- Depending on your municipal recycling system, the bristles may or may not be recyclable.
- The handle can be composted as it is made of bamboo.
- Although the toothbrush may be a green alternative to plastic toothbrushes, not all packaging is green.
More precisely, Bamboo has a smaller ecological footprint than plastic because bamboo plants grow quickly. As a colony plant, new shoots will emerge to compensate for the cane that was cut off. Bamboo is biodegradable if used in its raw form, such as for toothbrush handles. It needs little care and does not require pesticides or fertilizers for cultivation. When it reaches the end of its life cycle, the bristles can be removed using a pair of pliers so you can compost the handle.
On the other hand, toothbrushes are not recyclable because small parts get stuck in the machinery. They end up in landfills and remain there for a very long time since plastic is essentially indestructible.
Regarding the packaging, the cardboard box in which the brush comes can usually be recycled or composted. The wrapper found in some boxes is made of cellophane, a biodegradable product. However, it is only compostable in some jurisdictions across Canada. In most cases, it will be removed during the sorting process and placed in the garbage. Compostable plastic is often only biodegradable under lab conditions and not under real-life conditions such as in a compost facility.
There are some pros and cons for its functionality as well:
- Some brands have very soft bristles.
- Other brands have rough bristles.
- The handle is often not ideal.
- Not much research has been done on its functionality.
Soft bristles are good for people with receding gums, after an oral surgery or for individuals undergoing chemotherapy. For the average person, if the bristles are too soft, they will not remove enough plaque or leave that clean feeling on your teeth. On the opposite, if the bristles are too rough, they might wear on your enamel and contribute to receding gums. Most of the times, the handle is often not ideal. Ergonomically, it is easier to maneuver if it has a thicker grip. Overall, not much research has been done on its functionality and therefore, it has not been approved by Dental Associations yet.
Like their plastic counterparts, bamboo toothbrushes should be stored upright to allow for proper drying. This will prevent molds from developing. Interestingly, bamboo contains antimicrobial agents, so bacteria should not be a problem if the toothbrush is properly stored.
Bamboo toothbrushes can be just as good for your teeth as plastic toothbrushes if you find the right brand for you. I have completely fallen in love with the toothbrush from Boutique Locale. It is a local company located in Montreal with a great potential. It has changeable heads and always comes in ecofriendly packaging. The bristles are a bit rough at first, but they soften up after 2 days in a way that brings them to the perfect rigidity. It cleans your teeth incredibly well, leaving a fresh and smooth feeling. The head will need to be changed every 2-3 months depending on how you brush.
In the end, it can be argued that transitioning to a bamboo toothbrush is not necessarily the most pressing change to be done to resolve the pollution crisis. Yet, it is a very practicable and easy place to begin. In my opinion, this was one of the best purchases I have made this year. Give it a try, maybe it will be the right fit for you too!
Earthy Dietitian – @earthy.dietitian
Mehler, M. (2019, July 15). The history of plastic toothbrushes and how they pollute our planet. Dental Tribune. https://www.dental-tribune.com/news/the-history-of-plastic-toothbrushes-and-how-they-pollute-our-planet/
Foreo. (n.d.). How Toothbrushes Affect the Environment: An Infographic. https://www.foreo.com/mysa/how-toothbrushes-affect-environment-infographic/#:~:text=One%20billion%20plastic%20toothbrushes%20are,million%20pounds%20of%20waste%20annually.
Fabrian, S. (2018, October 4). Going green and keeping your teeth clean isn’t a simple task. CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/toothbrushes-bamboo-plastic-landfills-1.4847256
Colgate. (n.d.). Is a Bamboo Toothbrush Right for You? https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/selecting-dental-products/is-a-bamboo-toothbrush-right-for-you