Most toothbrushes nowadays are made entirely out of plastic. We live in a world with over 7 billion people who all brush their teeth about twice a day and use several toothbrushes on a yearly basis. This is a massive contribution to landfills and sometimes even oceans so it is time to make your daily oral hygiene more sustainable. This more sustainable alternative is available for a while now and if you haven't switched to a bamboo toothbrush yet, you find 4 reasons here to convince you to do otherwise.
Plastic toothbrushes are essentially made with petroleum (fossil fuel) which requires lots of energy for its processing and is essentially non-biodegradable since their degradation takes a lot of time (over a 1000 years) all the while releasing harmful toxins to the environment.
The handle of more sustainable toothbrushes is made from bamboo. There are several reasons why bamboo is an awesome crop.
Bamboo grows exceptionally fast. This can be up to 1 meter/4 feet per day in the right conditions. Bamboo can be harvested multiple times per year en its extensive root system can prevent soil erosion.
For the production of bamboo, there are much fewer pesticides and chemicals required for crop protection compared to many other plants.
Bamboo absorbs more carbon dioxide and produces up to 30% more oxygen compared to lots of other plants.
Bamboo is actually naturally antimicrobial. Which means almost no worry about bacteria growing in the handle! In short, this means that they fight microbes while cleaning your teeth. Even with these antimicrobial attributes, it is always advisable to rinse your toothbrush after use.
Just like the handle, the bristles of all plastic toothbrushes are also made from petroleum. Unfortunately, there are not many alternatives for the bristles at the moment.
One completely compostable alternative is to use a brush that has bristles made from pig hair. Whether or not you are comfortable with this is up to you. If you are not vegan, perhaps a toothbrush like this would be the right decision for you.
Several toothbrush manufacturers claim that their bristles are made from Nylon-4. This is a petroleum-based plastic that has been shown in lab studies to biodegrade in the environment under certain conditions. However, studies performed in a lab and real life are not the same thing. None of these manufacturers have provided any third-party proof that their toothbrush bristles actually will biodegrade in soil. Let alone in the cold waters of the ocean. Furthermore, it is questionable whether all of them really contain Nylon-4 in the first place. Usually, Nylon-6 is used which is non-biodegradable plastic.
Some companies claim that they have toothbrushes that are 100% biodegradable. Unfortunately, these companies can not show lab results that prove their claim which makes them questionable.
Biodegradable toothbrush bristles are still a topic that is under research and hopefully, in the near future, there will be an option that is vegan and 100% compostable. For now, when you have a bamboo toothbrush with nylon bristles, remove the bristles before composting the handle.