If you are on the journey towards decreasing your environmental footprint, the toothbrush swap is probably one of the first you will do. Along with skipping out on the single-use bags, saying no to the straw, and bringing your reusable water bottle with you everywhere, the bamboo dental hygiene utensils have become a staple in any environmentalist home. The bamboo toothbrush is an easy and simple solution that anyone can include in their daily routine, it is unassuming, cheap, and is virtually an invisible swap. The primary reason why toothbrushes are targeted by zero waste bloggers and gurus is that they are one of the top items found on any beach cleanups. In addition to cigarette butts, plastic bags, single-use water bottles, and food packages the plastic toothbrush is the picture-perfect Instagram capture of the clean-up. Imagine that an item that virtually every human on this planet can afford and uses on a regular basis. While many of us do not stick to the recommendation by dentists, to switch out our toothbrushes every three months, the number of toothbrushes ending up in landfills and our oceans are astounding.
So why are bamboo toothbrushes better?
The main reason that bamboo toothbrushes are deemed the more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative is that they are mostly created out of compostable material. Their handles are made out of the fastest-growing plant in the world, that required minimum upkeep or water. Bamboo has been hailed as a sustainable and earth-friendly material as after it is used it can be returned to the earth. If you want to learn about why bamboo is a sustainable friendly material, check out the blog posts discussing the environmental, social, and economic impacts of bamboo production. Both the creation and disposal of the bamboo handle are easier on the planet than the plastic counterpart, however, the toothbrushes are still not perfect. For now, the majority of companies still depend on petroleum-based plastics to create bristles. For this reason, it is vital that you properly dispose of your toothbrush.
Are bamboo toothbrushes compostable?
The bamboo toothbrush handle is compostable. This means, once you remove the bristles with pliers or tweezers, you can place the handle in your own compost and watch it break down back into the earth. Unlike many eco-friendly products that are advertised as compostable bamboo toothbrushes do not require an industrial compost to break down. Items such as single-use bags made out of cornstarch, single-use utensils out of various “compostable materials” are actually bringing many businesses backward. While restaurants and organizations hope to choose the greener alternative, the processing of these materials greatly depends on the waste processing facilities available. If you are curious to learn more about greenwashing and the meaning of compostable or biodegradable, then make sure to check out this blogpost
Are bamboo toothbrushes biodegradable?
Yes. There is some confusion about the different terminologies especially since many advertising and marketing campaigns use them interchangeably. Biodegradable means that the material can degrade back into the earth. What are bamboo toothbrush bristles made from?
Definition: (of a substance or object) capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms and thereby avoiding pollution.
It however does not necessarily specify the amount of time or conditions that this item needs to easily biodegrade. Technically, eventually even plastic will biodegrade although it will take longer than our individual lifetimes. From the environmental perspective, biodegradable typically refers to items that if left in a natural environment will return to the soil within a couple of weeks or months. The bamboo toothbrush handles can do exactly that. They are not only biodegradable but also can do so in your very own backyard compost. They are compostable in regular, healthy conditions provided they receive oxygen, and access to the earth’s recyclers.
Are bamboo toothbrush bristles compostable?
No, Nylon toothbrush bristles are not compostable. While booboo toothbrush employs corn-based PLA to create the toothbrush bristles, they will not break down in your own backyard compost. Organizations that however depend on bristles made from tapioca have been found to break down in compost, unfortunately, they also Fray quickly and do not last longer than a couple of weeks. This makes tapioca bristle alternatives more expensive and have you using more toothbrushes per year.
Many companies utilise petroleum-based plastics to create the toothbrush bristles. For this reason, you will need to separate the non-biodegradable bristles from the biodegradable handle prior to composting. If you do not separate the bristles from the handle, the tiny plastic pieces will enter the environment. Plastic bristles can eventually break down into microplastics that can enter the waterway systems, rivers, and eventually oceans. Micro plastics are an enormous problem in our seas. These tiny particles of plastic aggregate algal growth that makes them attractive for herbivores to consume. This makes them enter the food chain from where every subsequent consumer accumulates higher amounts of plastic in their digestive system. Plastic is impossible to pass and can have health side effects including giving the creature a feeling of satiation while it is not receiving any nutrients along with leaching of chemicals from the plastic.
How should you dispose of bamboo toothbrush bristles?
Since the bamboo toothbrush bristles are not compostable, it is a good idea to store them in a secure container after every time you discontinue using a toothbrush. Simply remove them from the toothbrush handle by using pliers and carefully secure them so they do not scatter into the environment. Once you have collected the bristles, you can check with your local council whether they provide processing option, or you will have to place them into your waste bin.
Will there be compostable bristles?
Yes, there are some companies that utilise boar hair as a biodegradable toothbrush bristle option. Unfortunately, these are not vegan, and individuals would rather use animal-friendly options. Many companies are working towards creating bristles from compostable materials to make the entire disposal process that much easier. Currently, the plant starch made substitute based PLA bristles are the closest alternative, however, they require to be industrially composted. They will only break down under extreme temperature conditions. So even with a bamboo toothbrush that advertises compostable bristles, ensure to remove them before throwing them in your compost.