One of the very first ‘green changes’ my husband and I ever made was ditching our plastic toothbrushes for bamboo. Plastic toothbrushes – just like drinking straws and other types of singe-use plastic – are extremely difficult to recycle and don’t break down in the environment, so we were delighted to find that a number of shops in our area such as Flame Lily (Tywyn), Dyfi Wholefoods (Machynlleth) and Cletwr (Tre’r Ddol) stock bamboo alternatives.
But are bamboo toothbrushes really that much better for the environment?
Well, the short answer is yes. Because the handle (and usually the packaging) is biodegradable, you can put it into your compost after you’re done with it, or reuse it in your garden as a plant stake. What’s more, bamboo is a very fast-growing plant, needs little care and doesn’t require pesticides or fertilisers for cultivation.
The only caveat is that the bristles are usually made of nylon, so you must remove them before disposal. If you have any doubt about the materials used to make the bristles of your brush, try burning them. If it emits black smoke and a foul smell, you can be sure that the bristles aren’t plastic-free!
So, is there an alternative to plastic bristles?
As of today, the only alternative that is completely natural and compostable is boar hair but this option isn’t particularly hygienic, nor is it cruelty-free. One highly recommended company we’re hoping to try soon is called Brush with Bamboo. They have managed to reduce the amount of plastic in their bristles to just 38%, making their brushes among the most advanced in the world today.
Like their plastic counterparts, bamboo toothbrushes should be stored upright in a container where they can dry easily. This will stop mould from developing. Once the bristles show signs of flattening or fraying, you know it’s time to swap your brush for a new one. This usually takes between 2-3 months depending on how you brush. (My husband, for example, uses up his brush twice as fast as I do!) Interestingly bamboo contains antimicrobial agents, so bacteria should be the least of your worries if you store your brush properly!
But what if I want to keep using plastic toothbrushes?
I’ve met some people who simply cannot get on with the bamboo alternative, and that’s fair enough.
If you’re keen on recycling your plastic toothbrushes, one option is to bring them to a Terracycle public drop-off location. Thanks to a recent partnership between Terracycle and Colgate, all oral care products and packaging can now be recycled into new products. You can find out more on the official Terracycle website.
Do you use a bamboo toothbrush? If so, which one and what has your experience been? Share your thoughts in our active Facebook group!