A toothbrush is essential for your oral hygiene, but have you thought about the environmental impact with the purchase of each plastic toothbrush? Bamboo toothbrushes are supposed to change that.
A bamboo toothbrush is more eco-friendly than plastic toothbrushes in many ways. First, is the sustainability of bamboo plants. Second, bamboo can decompose without releasing toxic gases. Third, less plastic waste. These 3 main reasons come with a lot more, even not so eco-friendly facts, if you take a closer look.
Bamboo plants take a very short time to grow to their maximum height. It is the fastest growing plant on our planet. It carries naturally-occurring antimicrobial agents. It means that bamboos don’t require fertilizers and pesticides. The astonishing growth and self-renewing capability of bamboo indicate that deforestation will never be an issue.
Looking for the best toothbrush can sometimes be frustrating. Most people will think about color and size first. In short, we only think about what it can do for ourselves. Very few would think about the environmental effects when they are about to buy. Let’s start thinking about the impact of a single toothbrush from now on.
What is the composition of a plastic toothbrush?
Every regular toothbrush includes approximately 15 to 20 grams of plastic that never really breaks down. From the production of plastic to disposal, this material is toxic. They are made of PVC plastics which contain phthalates. Phthalates improve flexibility and strength in plastic products. The research is still trying to figure out how bad they really are for the human’s health. They try to connect diseases (such as asthma, breast cancer, ADHD, neurodevelopmental issues, etc) with constant exposure to phthalates. Although there are no solid results yet, there is still strong evidence that plastic is not good for humans, nor the environment.
What we do know is that plastic doesn’t decompose and that it is already trashing our earth immensely. No portion of a conventional plastic toothbrush or packaging is biodegradable. I’ll get to this topic in detail later on in this article.
Is there a “good” plastic toothbrush?
However, buying a plastic toothbrush is not always the wrong thing to do. Some companies are selling plastic toothbrushes made from recycled materials.
Some manufacture toothbrushes out of compostable bioplastic or bio-based plastic. Bioplastic is made from cellulose taken from wood chips. They are sustainably collected to help lessen landfill scrap. Bioplastics are also made from lactic acid or soy protein.
Can you recycle or compost plastic toothbrushes?
When plastic toothbrush decomposes, it contracts and discharges poisonous substances. These bits of plastic are called microplastics. Microplastics are tiny plastic pieces that are smaller than five millimeters long. Most animals confuse food with plastics because of the pattern and color. It is really sad to think about all that plastic inside their tummies.
Plastics release a mixture of poisonous and greenhouse gases when burnt. Countries like the U.S. may not burn plastic but many developing countries do.
Plastic toothbrushes usually end up in landfills polluting towns, sewerage, and finally some bodies of water. It intoxicates our ocean, marine, and wildlife ecosystem.
The content of plastic toothbrushes also leaves a carbon footprint. It indicates that you are contributing when you replace your brush several times a year. And above it all, it can take at least more than a thousand years to degenerate. So, think about it this way: The first toothbrush that was ever used a long time ago still exists somewhere on our planet.
Now you might be thinking: “Well, what if I recycle my plastic toothbrush? Is this better?”
Sure, it does make it a little better but in the end it will still contribute to our plastic issue (microplastics). You can always recycle toothbrushes and reuse them for cleaning etc, but you can also do this with bamboo toothbrushes.
How to recycle bamboo toothbrush?
The handle of a bamboo toothbrush is 100% biodegradable. You can compost it, throw it in the organic waste bin, or bury it in your garden.
The bristles, however, are not always biodegradable. Before disposing of it, remove the bristles with pliers to separate the bristles from the handle. Be patient. Do not pull them all at once. It will get easier once you started removing the first few knots. Remove it slowly including the small metal staple that is used to keep the bristles together.
You can recycle those which is a little cumbersome because of the small amount. You can also throw them into your household non-biodegradable waste (landfill). You may also consult your nearest environmental recycling factory about proper recycling. Don’t forget the cardboard box packaging. Be creative and recycle it too.
What are bamboo toothbrushes made of?
The bamboo toothbrush is mostly made of Moso bamboo species. It has risen in fame globally because of its biodegradability.
It holds a wide array of features that set it apart from other toothbrush models. The handle is made from genuine bamboo. Most bamboo toothbrushes that are tested by scientists are BPA-Free, non-GMO, and non-toxic.
Bamboo as a plant is strong, antibacterial and rot-resistant. This makes it perfect for your mouth hygiene. Bamboo doesn’t need chemical treatment before using it, nor does it need fertilizers or pesticides in order to grow. So, it makes humans and the environment happy.
What about the bristles?
The truth is manufacturers are going strong in finding the best material for the bristles. They try to find the perfect solution for consumers and the environment. This is not as easy as you may think. People love the behavior of plastic bristles but plant-based bristles are often not as long-lasting.
Most bristles are not biodegradable, even if the label says so. They are made from nylon, which is still plastic. Nylon 4, however, is an artificial Polymer that gave evidence to decompose. In activated sewage, it can break down in about three to four months.
Our teeth enamel doesn’t have living cells. They cannot restore itself if damaged. That is why people buy toothbrushes with reliable bristles. The question is, which bristles are really good for our teeth and our environment?
Most toothbrushes nowadays are using Nylon 6 bristles. It is a universally used plastic that is not compostable.
Bristles are biodegradable if made from a domesticated species of long-haired pig. And that is sometimes the issue here. What if the consumer is a vegetarian, vegan, or has religious or moral conflicts with using animal hair?
Horsehair appears to be one of the best solutions. It is convenient for people who avoid pig. These horses are not mistreated by their owners. Their hair is simply trimmed as we do ours.
Another option is vegetable-based nylon bristles. They are totally free from petroleum. It is 100% compostable plant-based bristles that are made from corn and tapioca. It will only last for about one month of use but these are surely effective like the regular nylon bristles.
The castor oil bristles are bio-based. It is made up of 62% castor oil and 38% nylon which is actually plastic based. It is not that perfect but it is better than 100% nylon. The oil is taken from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant. They are used by factories to produce mineral oil-free bristles.
Are charcoal bristles safe?
Activated charcoal is becoming a trending topic nowadays, especially about its dental uses. A charcoal toothbrush is made of bristles infused with activated charcoal on a bamboo handle. It looks appealing because of its black color. It is very different and the complete opposite of the conventional white bristles.
Activated charcoal is developed by manufacturers into bristles. Brushing your teeth becomes more efficient. The charcoal absorbs bacteria at microscopic size. Its carbon-absorbing features eliminate plaque which stains our teeth.
Some individuals claim that it can stop the growth of bad bacteria, prevents bad breathe and lessen plaque. Activated charcoal toothbrushes are made of entirely biodegradable substances. But be mindful to always check the labels and the company.
Binchotan is optimum activated charcoal that has been admired in Japan for ages. It possesses absolute cleaning and detoxifying qualities. These bristles also help to remove stains, plaque and freshen the breath. The charcoal’s antibacterial features also help maintain clean bristles after each brush.
Don’t worry it is not the original charcoal in your teeth just like most people thought. It is made of coal, coconut shells, and other substances. These charcoals are activated once it is oxidized. Specialists state that using powdered and regulated quantities of activated charcoal in a specially formulated product is good to use.
Why switch to an eco-friendly toothbrush?
Most people don’t think about the toothbrushes they throw away. It is becoming a serious dilemma globally. Small steps can have tremendous outcomes. As consumers, we can redirect a big volume of trash from landfills and coastlines.
Simply make mindful choices regarding the commodities that we use every day. Shifting to an eco-friendly toothbrush is a great step to begin with. It is easier to spot choices to contemporary products everywhere.
Oh and let’s not forget about the packaging. Most packaging is made from biodegradable paper with no glue. Most of those compostable wraps are made from plants.
Regular plastic toothbrushes may be a perfect place for bacteria to build up if not stored properly. Bamboo handles retain its antimicrobial property. No need to worry anymore about bacterial growth on your toothbrush.
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What’s the verdict?
Bamboo toothbrush is the most publicized eco-friendly toothbrush. They are as efficient as plastic or electric toothbrush and they are stronger than plastic. The performance of a bamboo toothbrush on your oral hygiene is the same as those standard plastic toothbrushes.
Recyclable plastic toothbrushes also offer the same dental hygiene. However, recycling old plastics to produce new products also has its disadvantages. Factories make different products from reused plastics. Producing new items uses the same energy as any other plastic goods.
Research and development laboratories have found out that biodegradable stuff like eggshells and corn starch are a fit for plastic production. Researchers discover more techniques for combining plastic with natural substances. More and more businesses will be using the eco-friendly toothbrush in the near future.
Manufacturers are working hard on a perfect solution for the bristles of bamboo toothbrushes. So far, nylon is still a better option than 100% plastic. That’s why I started using them and I got used to the feeling of a bamboo toothbrush very quickly.
In the end, it is always up to you to choose.