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Since dental hygiene is not negotiable and most toothbrushes are made from plastic, I have been wondering about bamboo toothbrush benefits? Are they real or just another product marketed as eco that fails to deliver? Here is what I found out!
Did you know that an estimated one billion toothbrushes enter landfills each year?
That’s not even the worst of it. The vast majority of toothbrushes are made of plastic, meaning that 50 million pounds of plastic are thrown away every year in the form of old toothbrushes.
When compared to plastic, bamboo toothbrushes are much more sustainable without many drawbacks.
So what are the advantages of bamboo toothbrushes? How does bamboo compare to other wooden toothbrush benefits? And is a bamboo toothbrush really the best option out there?
What’s The Problem With Conventional Toothbrushes?
Dental hygiene is not an ‘optional choice’ and I am certainly not arguing whether or not using a toothbrush is a good thing! Conventional toothbrushes are a cheap, effective way to maintain oral hygiene between trips to the dentist.
The problem is that almost all toothbrushes are made of plastic.
Like single-use straws, the seemingly small amount of plastic used to make each toothbrush quickly adds up.
It’s not just about where plastic toothbrushes go when they’re thrown out, either. The manufacturing process alone accounts for up to half of the environmental damage caused by plastic.
Can You Recycle Plastic Toothbrushes?
Of course, toothbrushes are not the only source of plastic in day-to-day life. So why isn’t recycling your used toothbrushes a viable option?
First, recycling isn’t as effective as many people believe. Only 25% of plastic makes it to recycling centers. The rest ends up in landfills.
Second, the plastic used to make toothbrushes is not easy to recycle. Very few recycling centers will accept plastic toothbrush handles. Even fewer will accept the nylon bristles most commonly used in manual toothbrushes.
Since toothbrushes are a necessary part of modern life, finding sustainable alternatives is the best solution.
What Are The Benefits Of Using A Bamboo Toothbrush?
The greatest benefit of bamboo toothbrushes is that bamboo is an organic material. While plastic can take hundreds of years to break down, bamboo is completely biodegradable.
While plastic breaks down over time, it never decomposes. Instead, it turns into microscopic particles that pollute water supplies, soil, and even living things.
Biodegradable materials like bamboo not only break down much faster than plastic. They completely decompose (turning into natural elements like carbon) without harming the environment.
You don’t even need to use a recycling program to responsibly discard your old toothbrush. As long as you remove the bristles, you can throw used bamboo toothbrushes in your backyard compost pile!
What Makes Bamboo Environmentally Friendly?
Despite the similarities, bamboo isn’t true wood. This is because bamboo is a type of grass, not a tree.
While this fact might seem dull to non-botany nerds, it’s actually quite important!
Bamboo offers the structural integrity of real wood combined with the fast-growing nature of grass. In other words, we can grow bamboo with far fewer resources (water, fertilizer, soil, etc.) than it would take to grow the same amount of wood.
Living bamboo is naturally resilient to pests and the environment as a whole. Cut bamboo will even regrow from the roots, minimizing the labor needed to farm this crop season after season.
Are Bamboo Toothbrushes 100% Green?
Bamboo toothbrushes are a wonderful alternative to traditional plastic toothbrushes. But there is plenty of room for improvement.
While bamboo is more sustainable than wood, it’s not perfect. For example, deforestation is a serious concern in the bamboo industry.
China produces most of the world’s bamboo. Harvested bamboo must be shipped around the world, contributing to pollution from the global trade and transport industry.
Most bamboo toothbrushes still rely on nylon bristles. Nylon production releases toxic gases into the atmosphere. To make matters worse, the material is nearly impossible to recycle. Nevertheless, you will encounter the same issue with plastic toothbrushes!
Is Bamboo The Only Sustainable Toothbrush Material Available?
There’s a reason bamboo is one of the most popular plastic alternatives on the market.
However, it’s far from the only material being used to make more sustainable toothbrush handles and bristles.
Here are some other eco-friendly materials to look out for when shopping for the best bamboo toothbrush for your own dental routine:
- Silicone — Despite the close resemblance to plastic, silicone is much more sustainable. This material is extremely durable and doesn’t pollute water sources like plastic particles do. It is also fairly easy to recycle.
- Boar Hair — The most sustainable alternative to nylon bristles is boar hair. It’s natural and completely biodegradable. However, vegans and others looking to avoid animal products should steer clear.
- Metal — Metal toothbrush handles aren’t very popular, but they are a potential alternative to plastic. This material is mostly used to make electric toothbrush handles, which have a much longer lifespan than manual toothbrushes.
- Bioplastic — Many bamboo toothbrushes feature bioplastic bristles instead of nylon ones. While this material is sourced from plants, it is not compostable. Some, but not all, bioplastics qualify as biodegradable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Bamboo Toothbrushes Harbor Bacteria?
While bamboo toothbrushes can harbor bacteria, the risk is likely no greater than with a plastic toothbrush.
Some people believe that bamboo toothbrush handles are naturally antimicrobial. Living bamboo does deter bacteria but there is no concrete evidence that the wood maintains this property after being turned into a toothbrush.
To prevent bacterial growth, keep your toothbrush dry and store it in a clean, protected space.
Do Bamboo Toothbrushes Mold?
Natural materials like bamboo are more likely to harbor mold than plastic. But this doesn’t mean that using a bamboo toothbrush is harmful.
Allowing your toothbrush to dry completely before storing is very important. Use a towel to remove excess water and store your toothbrush upright to prevent mold growth.
How Much Does A Bamboo Toothbrush Cost?
One of the biggest concerns consumers have about switching to a bamboo toothbrush is the cost. Fortunately, bamboo toothbrushes only cost a little more than plastic ones.
If you’re on a budget, there are bamboo toothbrushes available for as little as a couple of dollars. Premium options rarely exceed $10.
How Long Do Bamboo Toothbrushes Take To Decompose?
On average, bamboo toothbrush handles take between 4 and 6 months to decompose in a home compost bin. Industrial-level composting can shorten this timeframe down to just a few weeks.
Can You Disinfect A Bamboo Toothbrush?
According to the American Dental Association, disinfecting your toothbrush is usually not necessary.
The best way to keep a bamboo toothbrush clean is by letting it dry between uses. If you must disinfect your toothbrush, use an antibacterial mouthwash or hydrogen peroxide.
In cases where you believe your toothbrush was exposed to harmful bacteria or another substance, the safest option is to replace your toothbrush entirely.
How Long Do Bamboo Toothbrushes Last?
According to the American Dental Association, you should replace your bamboo toothbrush every 3 to 4 months. This is the same lifespan as a traditional plastic toothbrush.
To get the most out of your bamboo toothbrushes, you can continue using your old toothbrush as a cleaning utensil after switching to a new toothbrush.