If you’re looking to purge your home of unnecessary and harmful plastic waste, then switching up your regular plastic toothbrush to a biodegradable option is an excellent place to start.
Your bathroom should be your first port of call when looking to reduce plastic waste. And, if you’re making significant progress in replacing harmful soaps, and reducing plastic shower gel and shampoo bottles, there’s no reason not to ditch your old plastic toothbrush and replace it with a bamboo one.
Bamboo growth is rapid and therefore, does not require any chemical intervention, from the likes of fertilisers or pesticides, to help it grow. Additionally, it’s harvested without killing the plant itself, which reduces the risk of soil erosion associated with commercial farming.
Bamboo is also completely compostable, which means you can toss it onto your compost pile.
What About the Bristles?
Typically toothbrush bristles are made using nylon. Nylon is a human-made fibre that is both strong and flexible, which makes it perfect for keeping your teeth and gums healthy.
The material itself is a relatively modern material that began mass-production in the 1930s; before that, most toothbrush bristles were made using pig hair.
Toothbrushes bristles are made using nylon 6, which is an expensive material to recycle, invariably meaning that it will end up in a landfill.
However, when you look at a toothbrush, the bristles only make up a small part of the overall size, so if you can save the majority of it from the bin, then you’re contributing far less plastic waste than you were previously.
In any case, many bamboo toothbrush bristles are made with a mixture of nylon and other materials such as charcoal and bamboo, which significantly reduces the petroleum used in the manufacturing process.
While it is still possible to get hold of 100% biodegradable toothbrushes with pig hair bristles, they aren’t a popular choice for today’s conscious consumer for several reasons.
First of all, they are clearly not vegan or vegetarian-friendly, secondly, the bristles are often much firmer than nylon which can lead to gum and enamel damage and finally pig hairs are hollow which increases the risk of bacteria build-up.
Does this Mean Bamboo Toothbrushes Aren’t Eco-Friendly?
While the inclusion of nylon means that many toothbrushes made from bamboo aren’t 100% compostable, they are still much better for the environment than those which are made entirely from plastic.
The manufacturing process is far kinder to the environment as bamboo grows without the need for human involvement. This, along with the fact that turning bamboo into a toothbrush handle requires far less energy and machinery, means that these toothbrushes are a far eco-friendlier option.
Disposing of a Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrush
Upcycle & Re-use
Once your toothbrush has fulfilled its primary purpose of keeping your teeth clean, there are many ways to wring a little bit more use from it:
- Cleaning your bathroom – An old toothbrush is the ideal size and shape to clean those difficult to reach areas in the bathroom. The corners of countertops, between tiles, in the plugs and in and around the toilet are much easier to get to with a toothbrush.
- Maintaining electrical equipment – An old, dry toothbrush is perfect for cleaning between the keys on a keyboard, or to remove dust and dirt from the vents of hairdryers or the filter of a hoover.
- Cleaning cooking accessories – We all get frustrated by bits of garlic skin stuck to the inside of the garlic crusher, shards of cheese caught in the cheese grater and debris blocking up the sieve. An old toothbrush is the perfect tool to keep these accessories nice and clean.
- Cleaning shoes – What’s good for removing mud caught between the studs on a pair of football boots or from between the grooves of your wellies? You guessed it – the humble toothbrush.
- Labelling Plants – Looking for a way to tell your tomatoes from your peppers in the garden, without using plastic sticks? Simply use a sharpie to write the name of your crop on your toothbrush handle and push it into the soil in front of the plant.
Removing the Nylon Bristles
While the bristles on our toothbrushes are recyclable, they are the only part of the toothbrush that is not biodegradable.
Providing our customers with the highest quality product to aid oral health and effective teeth hygiene is our top priority, however, at the moment there are no biodegradable fibres that currently do this as well as the standard nylon 6 bristles that we mentioned earlier.
This means that you must remove the bristles of the toothbrush and dispose of them separately if you’re not planning to use the brush for cleaning purposes.
The two most-effective methods for doing this are:
- Pulling them out with pliers
- Snapping the whole head off
The easiest way is to pull out the bristles with pliers – this is actually oddly satisfying too! It’s best to avoid pulling too many bristles all at once, instead try to use a smoother action. This helps to remove the bristles and the small metal staples out all at once.
The bristles can then go into your plastic recycling bin, but since they are so small, it’s a good idea to first place them into another plastic item you’re recycling, like a bottle or milk carton for example.
Alternatively, you could always saw or snap the head off completely, this means you can throw the handle onto your compost heap or bury it in the ground in pieces for faster decomposition.
Generally speaking, the bamboo handle can take anywhere from several months or a few years to completely decompose.
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