BY CLAIRE COATES
My first encounter with a bamboo toothbrush was at a university open day, where I was offered one in a single-use plastic bag by the environmental science department I was visiting. The irony. Needless to say I didn’t take one, and I must confess I’ve been fairly sceptical since. But I think it’s about time we had a proper look at these eco-friendly inventions.
The problem with plastic toothbrushes
If you follow your dentist’s guidelines of changing your toothbrush every three months, you’re looking at throwing away about 300 of these bristly plastic fellas in your lifetime. And considering that every plastic toothbrush ever created still exists, that’s a real kick in the teeth for our planet.
Since your toothbrush is (hopefully!) used everyday, swapping for a sustainable bamboo brush is a simple way to make a big difference. So, once yours has brushed its last tooth, maybe it’s time to switch to a bamboo toothbrush? Just make sure to use up any toothbrushes you already have before venturing into the more eco-friendly realms of bamboo to prevent waste, and look into oral carre recycling options, such as the one run by TerraCycle.
What is a bamboo toothbrush?
A bamboo toothbrush is essentially the same as a standard disposable plastic brush, but made from different, more environmentally responsible, materials. Bamboo also has the added bonus of being naturally antibacterial and of course, very visually attractive.
How are bamboo toothbrushes made?
Bamboo is ready for harvesting after 4-5 years growth (much quicker than wood) and is then stripped of its bark to be washed, dried and smoothed into strips. The strips can then be glued together and shaped with tools. Finally, vegetable oil is used as ink to add the finishing touches.
All bamboo toothbrushes are made with a biodegradable bamboo handle, but the material to produce the bristles varies. Our Better Than Bamboo Toothbrush uses nylon for example, which is probably the same material as the toothbrush sat in your bathroom at the moment. Although not biodegradable, it is vegan - unlike the fully compostable boar hair versions, and most importantly maintains the best possible dental health. Nylon is also recommended by dentists due to it being just as effective as your usual plastic brush.
Can bamboo toothbrushes be recycled?
When your toothbrush has reached the end of its life as a dental tool, think about where else it could come in handy before disposing of it. Cleaning your bathroom for example? Those tiny bristles are great to get into nooks and crannies all around the house . But don’t feel limited to inside the house, why not use the bamboo handles in the garden as plant labels or dibbers?
Once the toothbrush really has reached the end of its life it takes just two steps to responsibly dispose of it:
1. Remove the bristles
These unfortunately aren’t biodegradable, but can easily be removed using pliers or snapping the head off. Once removed, bristles can go in some plastic recycling collections.
Although bamboo can’t be recycled as such, it will biodegrade in your garden compost bin in around 4-6 months, or you can pop it in your garden waste bin to be composted industrially. It’s important to remember that even if you don’t have these options available to you, bamboo will decompose in landfill in 5-10 years time - still a much better alternative to non-biodegradable plastic, which will stay there for about 400 years.
How to store and clean your bamboo toothbrush
Being made from bamboo doesn’t massively affect how you would look after your toothbrush - so your current cleaning routine will probably be fine.
However, although it’s tempting to keep your toothbrush in one of our super cute rinse cups, these will collect water - and bamboo lasts best in a dry environment, such as an open air toothbrush holder. It’s also useful to note that the wood may naturally fade with time, but don’t worry - this is normal! Your toothbrush will still do a great job as long as the bristles are in good condition.
Where can I buy a bamboo toothbrush?
After writing this article I wish I had accepted that free bamboo toothbrush from the university, but at least there are plenty of stores who will now sell you one of these gizmos. That said, they’re all slightly different and picking between them is enough to give you toothache. So, we at The Clean Collective have done the hard work for you and selected the best we could find for our Better Than range. The attractive bamboo handle and black nylon bristle design will be a great addition to your bathroom.
Time to brush up your bathroom routine and move to bamboo!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As part of the generation that will be most affected by climate change, Claire Coates is passionate about protecting our planet and campaigning for a sustainable way of life. Known by her friends as an eco-warrior, Claire runs a clothes swap scheme at her Sixth Form to recycle and reuse unwanted outfits. In her spare time she enjoys running her own radio show and playing for her local hockey team.