Finding the Right Bamboo Toothbrush
While a big part of going green is swapping out single-use items with things that last, toothbrushes just don’t fit into that category. Unless you know how to weave bristles, you’re gonna have to buy a new one here and there.
If you’re reading this, you already know how bad plastic is for the environment. Around a billion toothbrushes are thrown away in the US every year, and the vast majority of them are plastic. And they're not recyclable. And they sit in landfill for hundreds of years. If William Shakespeare had brushed his pearly whites with a plastic brush, it'd still be decomposing today.
One of the best alternatives is bamboo—a renewable, biodegradable material that’s classy enough for any bathroom. Once it wears out, bamboo toothbrush handles can go straight into the compost pile.
Seems easy enough. Is this the end of the plastic toothbrush? Has humanity turned over a new leaf? Not quite.
Like all good ideas, some of the earliest investors are the ones who have cash enough to gamble. For many of them, revenue is the priority—not sustainability. As long as it looks like a bamboo toothbrush, who cares what the bristles are made of?
Are Bristles Always Plastic?
Plastic is everywhere. It wasn’t always this way, but now plastic is so out of control that countries like Bangladesh have a ban on single-use bags to avoid flooding their waterways. You’d think the plastic industry would take a hint, but instead they responded by cranking the PR knob up to 11 and blaming us for not recycling enough (hint: it's still their fault, not ours).
For a bamboo toothbrush to make a positive impact, bristles can’t just be greenwashed single-use plastic. And as long as fossil fuels have a seat at the table, getting rid of them will be impossible.
The alternative? Start with some sort of bio-based plastic. What? Unfamiliar with plastic compounds? You’re not a chemist? Here’s what to look for...
Plastic that Isn’t Paleolithic
Most of the plastic we use comes from fossil fuels. When it breaks down—hundreds of years later—it leaves behind toxic microplastics that end up in our food and eventually our bodies. Plus, mining fossil fuels is extremely hard on the environment.
Castor oil is a great biobased alternative. It’s made from castor beans which are sustainable and super easy to grow, resulting in a plastic that is not only compostable (as in, won’t leave microplastics behind), but also durable enough to be bristles on a toothbrush.
Unlike petroleum, bioplastics don’t come from thousands of years old single-use dinosaur goo. They will biodegrade in your lifetime, rather than your great great grandchildrens’.
Are Bioplastics Biodegradable?
Here’s the thing though: bioplastics make their impact by reducing the CO2 emissions and toxic waste from oil refineries. While they biodegrade more safely, they don’t solve the single-use problem.
Bioplastics don’t instantly break down in a landfill or recycle properly. In fact, some compostable bioplastics will contaminate recycling systems. Yes, castor oil bristles will eventually break down and return to the soil, but if you’re thinking about trashing them, it’s better to take them to a proper recycling plant.
Keep at It
Going green takes effort. Making adjustments like a bamboo toothbrush may not feel like much, but they help you stay focused on keeping waste to a minimum and steering clear of plastic. If you need other ideas for sustainable life hacks, click here.