Bamboo toothbrushes are a great way to minimize plastic usage in your household. What do you do after using them though? Can you compost or recycle them?
Yes, you can compost, reuse, or recycle your bamboo toothbrushes. However, it highly depends on what type of toothbrush you purchase. The main concern is the material of the bristles.
Bamboo toothbrushes are not always made of 100% organic matter. Some of them use nylon bristles, which you cannot compost. In this case, you just have to pull out the bristles and only compost the body.
How to compost bamboo toothbrushes?
The handle or the bamboo itself is 100% biodegradable. You can compost the bamboo properly to be sure that it breaks down immediately. You can simply put it in your garden composter just like other kitchen wastes.
Keep in mind that Bamboo is rot-resistant, which is great for toothbrushes but it may take longer to decompose than other things in your composter. It should break down within 4-6 months though. It is important to keep the compost material wet and warm in order to see quicker results.
You could also bury the bamboo toothbrush horizontally somewhere in your garden. This will take around 3 years to decompose when buried in normal soil.
Your last option would be the organic waste (compost) trash bin if your city offers it. They use commercial grade composters, which provide better conditions for composting. A bamboo toothbrush will break down within weeks.
You can also compost the packaging if it says that it is biodegradable. Most biodegradable packaging is plant-based. Most of them came from 100% renewable resources like corn, starch, and sugar. Aside from bamboo, it is also considered that there will be an increasing demand for the corn-based biodegradable merchandises.
If composting is not an option, you can burn the toothbrush body as well. It is free from toxic gases, unlike plastic. Bamboo is carbon-neutral, it only releases carbon dioxide.
How long does it take for a bamboo toothbrush to decompose?
Bamboo is a natural product that will break down completely.
The decomposition depends on certain conditions like the type of soil, temperature, and environment, as well as the
level of humidity. You can choose to place it in your local industrial composter for the quickest breakdown. They are very efficient and takes only a few weeks.
Bamboo is strong and rot-resistant material. The handle will take several years to decompose in a landfill. A home composter usually takes around four to six months or less. You could cut it into smaller pieces to speed up the decomposition.
Here’s a cool tip for the little hobby scientists: Bury a part of the wooden bamboo in your garden and have a look at it each month to check the process. Then also put a part in your composter and compare the two methods. You may even take pictures of it for documentation.
What you cannot compost in a bamboo toothbrush
Bristles and the little staple that keep the bristles in place. It is the way it is. Probably 95% of the bamboo toothbrushes on the market have bristles that you cannot compost.
The bristles can be made of high-density Polyethylene, nylon, pig hair, or charcoal. The safe way, however, is to remove the bristles and dispose of them. It is only a tiny part of trash compared to regular plastic toothbrushes. Therefore, it is still better to go with bamboo toothbrushes.
So, your first check should be the material of bristles used (keep in mind that some brand may mislead you). See if the bristles can be composted or not.
If not, remove the bristles from the head slowly. Don’t remove too many bristles in one attempt. It won’t remove them completely. Pliers are the best way to go because you will also get the small metal staple out.
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What types of bristles are biodegradable?
So, you want a 100% biodegradable toothbrush? Nowadays, you have 2 options:
Check for bristles that are made of Nylon-4, which is a petroleum-based plastic. Oh yeah, there it is again. That plastic. Nylon-4, however, is biodegradable under certain conditions – so the science says.
The bristles should be BPA free. BPA or bisphenol-A is the substance seen in several plastics. BPA-free plastic will not release any toxins when composted or thrown away. It is advisable to place it in your bio-waste bin to be disposed of in a commercial composter. It will decompose in just a few weeks.
The next option is pig hair. If you are vegan or have moral issues with animal products like this, this won’t be an option for you either. For me, it definitely isn’t worth trying to brush my teeth with pig hair…
What are bamboo charcoal toothbrushes?
Bamboo charcoal is made from the fast-growing Moso bamboo. Bamboo charcoal has 10x more surface area and is 4x stronger absorption rate. It has infinite tiny holes that completely absorb moisture, odors, and polluted air particles. It can attract and absorb food particles from our mouth and chlorine from tap water.
Activated charcoal can help prevent bad breath. It can remove plaque, coffee, tea, and wine stains on your teeth. Your teeth will become cleaner and whiter.
Regular charcoal is a known carcinogen. Activated charcoal is therapeutic. This coal is the byproduct of slowly burnt wood that is treated with oxygen. The process makes it extremely porous and nonpolar. It absorbs poisons and odors from gases and liquids up to 1000x its mass.
Good to know about bamboo toothbrushes
Being eco-friendly is one of the common reasons why people are shifting from plastic to bamboo toothbrushes. These toothbrushes are sold as a practical alternative to plastic. They are reusable, recyclable, and mostly biodegradable. The toothbrush handle, packaging, and sometimes bristles can be composted. It is eco-friendly, renewable, and sustainable.
Bamboo toothbrushes are antibacterial. There is no more worry about bad bacteria growing and spreading on the handle and bristles. They can last longer compared to your regular plastic toothbrush.
These toothbrushes also look attractive if you like the more natural appearance like I do.
Most packages are made from recyclable or biodegradable materials. The ink used is mostly water-based. So, there is no harm in the packaging either.
Are there any disadvantages of buying bamboo toothbrushes?
Like everything else in life, there are always bad sides as well.
If you order online, it often will be delivered in a plastic which is not biodegradable.
Most bamboo toothbrushes are manufactured in Southeast Asia. The carbon emission from transportation is not a good thing.
Lots of manufacturers claim to have a 100% biodegradable toothbrush. This is often a lie. Most bristles are non-biodegradable, which makes it harder to find the best bamboo toothbrush.
Bamboo toothbrushes may cost more than your conventional toothbrushes.
Effects of throwing plastic toothbrushes in the environment
- A plastic toothbrush can take up to a thousand years to decompose.
- 50,000,000 lbs of toothbrushes are thrown in US landfills yearly. Some modern toothbrushes are designed with bigger handles, which means the volume of plastics will only rise.
- In Australia, more than 30,000,000 toothbrushes are thrown away in landfill every year.
- These plastics are not simply going into landfills but also into our bodies of water. There are lots of reports about our marine animals dying from plastic ingestion.
- Non-renewable energy from plastic toothbrushes came from non-renewable fossil fuels.
- Stop contributing to greenhouse gases. Nylon production creates nitrous oxide, a type of greenhouse gas that is 310x more active than carbon dioxide.
Now is the best time to switch from your conventional toothbrush to bamboo. More and more products are becoming available. There will be more choices when it comes to incorporating green living with a modern lifestyle.
What are some ways to reuse or recycle bamboo toothbrushes?
Before you throw your toothbrush into the trash or compost it, you can reuse it. This way you take the full advantage of this item.
Let’s talk about the multiple option you have to reuse your bamboo toothbrushes.
Before you do that you should clean your old toothbrush though. Prepare a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water. Soak it for a couple of hours. Rinse and let it dry.
The best part: Label them for different purposes. You can easily write on bamboo with a pen or sharpie, as well as carve it into the handle or burn words into the “wood”. This way you always know if you used it for bathroom cleaning or in the kitchen.
For cleaning purposes
Your used bamboo toothbrush can be recycled as a cleaning brush. I actually have been doing this with plastic toothbrushes as well. A reused toothbrush is perfect for all those hard-to-reach areas in your whole home. Use it for corners, bathtubs, air filters, as well as a tile or vegetable scrubber. It is a perfect tool to dust your computer keyboard, remove fragments from your hairdryer or vacuum filters.
The used bamboo toothbrush also helps in your kitchen cleansing. Remove clogs in your sink. Clean your cheese grater. Remove pulps from your garlic crusher.
Use it to scrub stains out of your clothing. Those worn toothbrushes are excellent for cleaning the dirt out of your shoes, bicycle chains, and more. Your old toothbrush can be very helpful for cleaning your jewelry.
For creative purposes
Make a creative seedling marker. What a handy reminder for each of your plants. Bamboo sticks can be a small trellis for the start of your climbing plants as well.
How about a wind chime? All you need to do is drill a hole in one end. Hang some stuff on it and you’re done. Of course, you can also use multiple toothbrushes and make it bigger.
What about DIY keychains? Cut off the head, drill a hole in one end and add your keys. This is stylish, so no need to buy one.
Popsicle ice cream is another way to reuse bamboo handles. If you like making popsicles, this might be a great option for you! It doesn’t even have to stop with ice cream. You could also use them for baked foods.
There are soooo many things you can do before you decide to throw your bamboo toothbrushes away or compost them. Take a look at your household. See what else you can do for each bamboo toothbrush that you and your family will use. All you need is a little creativity. Get your kids involved and come up with some more crafty ways to reuse the bamboo toothbrushes!