Tip 3: Ditch your plastic toothbrush!
We’re told to change our toothbrush every 3-4 months, but where does it go at the end of its life?
If you have a plastic toothbrush, chances are, it ends up in the landfill.
According to National Geographic, the average person will go through 300 toothbrushes in their lifetime. An infographic by Foreo estimates that there are one billion toothbrushes thrown out every year!
That’s a lot of landfill.
Perhaps just as worrying as waste, plastic toothbrush components have been found to have harmful chemicals.
A 2011 study supported by National Institutes of Health found that all plastics tested released endocrine disruptors when stressed which was seen to cause cell, organ, and even behavioral changes.
Another study looking specifically at plastic toothbrushes by the Danish Technological Institute determined that toothbrushes can contain carcinogenic or repro-toxic substances and acknowledged that those with allergies or who are sensitive to these substances could experience adverse reactions.
So, what are the alternatives?
An Eco&Beyond article examines bamboo’s sustainability legitimacy, and found that bamboo is a fast-growing, low-water consuming plant that is easily maintained and can be grown sustainably without pesticides. Although it can be pesticide-free, it’s not a guarantee. It’s always best to check where your bamboo product was grown, and how it was grown, whenever possible. Read their full article here.
Most bamboo products are types that pandas don’t naturally eat, and can be sustainably harvested earlier than timber, making bamboo a great option for consumer products! The World Wildlife Fund agrees.
The best part of a typical bamboo toothbrush?
The bamboo handle of the toothbrush is 100% compostable. You can put it in your compost collection bin or in your home compost!
However, not all bamboo brushes are created equal.
The majority of bamboo toothbrushes today are made with nylon bristles.
Although considered vegan as they don’t contain animal components or harm animals to create the product, nylon bristles are not compostable and must be properly disposed of at the end of their lifetime.
If your brush has nylon bristles, use pliers to remove them. Check if your local recycling station accepts nylon (usually Nylon-4 or Nylon-6) before adding to your household recyclables.
Find out how to properly care for and dispose of your bamboo toothbrush here!
If your curbside recycling doesn’t take nylon bristles, check out other recycling stations or resources that do.
TerraCycle is a fantastic recycling resource. They accept plastic toothbrushes and toothbrush heads in their Oral Care Box.
If you look long enough, you can find some vegan and fully compostable options.
Brush Naked manufactures some bamboo toothbrushes with bristles made entirely out of corn and tapioca!
Brush with Bamboo uses bristles that are 100% Castor Bean Oil and USDA Certified 100% Biobased, meaning they contain no fossil fuels.
Fully compostable and vegan!
Natural, But Not Vegan
Bamboo toothbrushes with boar hair bristles are, while not vegan, 100% natural and can be fully composted. Check out this Gaia Guy option.
As we continue looking for ways to reduce our environmental footprint and make the switch to better both our health and our planet, new innovative products are beginning to emerge. A higher demand for products which are sustainably grown, manufactured, and with better disposal options are likely right around the corner.
One such innovative product is everloop by NOS.
The brush base is made from post-consumer recycled plastic and comes with 8 compostable bamboo bristles that are easily swapped out, and very satisfying to watch be clipped in! They claim the brush has a 2 year minimum lifespan.
Also known as miswak, arak, siwak, qesam, or a variety of other names, chewing sticks have been around forever and are still used in parts of the world today.
A 2014 clinical trial which used dental students as participants discovered that chewing sticks “revealed parallel and at times greater mechanical and chemical cleansing of oral tissues as compared to a toothbrush. The anti-plaque efficacy of chewing stick [sic] was significantly demonstrated in this study. This indicates that it may effectively and exclusively replace the toothbrush. ”
An earlier study in 2001 compared seven types of chewing sticks from Asia and Pakistan, and found some samples even had antimicrobial benefits! The study found that some kinds are more beneficial than others, and can even create a kind of natural toothpaste.
There are tons of great options for better everyday dental care products.
Switch out your old plastic toothbrush today and feel good knowing you’re creating a more sustainable world every time you brush your teeth!
Almas, K. “The Antimicrobial Effects of Seven Different Types of Asian Chewing Sticks” – http://www.santetropicale.com/Resume/49604.pdf
Almas, Khalid and Taha R. Al-Lafi. “The natural toothbrush.” https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/50441/WHF_1995_16%282%29_p206-210.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Brush Naked Bamboo Toothbrushes – https://us.brushnaked.com
Brush With Bamboo – https://www.brushwithbamboo.com/about-the-brush/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/infectioncontrol/faqs/toothbrush-handling.html
Gaia Guy – https://www.gaiaguy.com
Hassan, M. and Shirley Gutkowski. “Comparison of Miswak with Modern Toothbrushes and Toothpastes” – https://www.aegisdentalnetwork.com/idh/2020/05/comparison-of-miswak-with-modern-toothbrushes-and-toothpastes
Malik, Aeeza S. et al. “Comparative Effectiveness of Chewing Stick and Toothbrush: A Randomized Clinical Trial” – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4114011/
National Geographic – https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/story-of-plastic-toothbrushes
Recycle Nation – https://recyclenation.com/2015/06/how-to-recycle-toothbrush/
Svendsen, Nanna et al. “Survey of chemical substances in toothbrushes” – https://eng.mst.dk/media/mst/69125/42.pdf
Yang, Chun Z. et al. “Most Plastic Products Release Estrogenic Chemicals: A Potential Health Problem That Can Be Solved” – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222987/
Zero Waste California – https://zerowastecalifornia.org/2019/11/10/finally-a-100-biodegradable-toothbrush/