We all know that plastic is bad for the environment and should be avoided as much as possible.
If you own a plastic toothbrush, this is one of the items you’re encouraged to change for an eco-friendly one. That’s where bamboo toothbrushes come in.
What is bamboo?
Bamboo is a natural, biodegradable material that’s a totally sustainable resource. It’s a fast-growing plant so using it isn’t problematic because we don’t have to worry about running out of it.
In addition to that, bamboo plants don’t require pesticides in order to grow, so they’re better for the planet.
Is it a good idea to purchase a bamboo toothbrush, though?
Here’s what you need to know.
Why Should You Stop Using Plastic Toothbrushes?
Plastic is bad for the environment, partly because it’s difficult to recycle.
When it comes to plastic toothbrushes specifically, they are made out of polypropylene plastic and they have nylon bristles. These two materials come from fossil fuels and aren’t biodegradable.
What makes plastic toothbrushes difficult to recycle is that they consist of small parts of plastic which are combined. This means that plastic toothbrushes usually get thrown out and often end up in landfills.
Why Is Bamboo Better?
An alternative to plastic that has become quite popular is bamboo. There are many benefits to using a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most important advantages to know about.
- Bamboo is 100-percent natural.
- Bamboo plants grow fast and can be harvested in three to five years.
- Bamboo plants don’t require a lot of water, so they don’t drain the world of this precious resource.
- Bamboo plants don’t need pesticides.
- Bamboo can thrive in different environments, which makes them easy to grow.
- Bamboo is 100-percent biodegradable and can break down in your compost after about six months. This is amazing if you consider that plastic toothbrushes can take up to 500 years to decompose!
- Bamboo toothbrushes are antibacterial. Bamboo plants repel bacteria, so you can take advantage of this by using a bamboo toothbrush. You won’t have to worry about bacteria growing and thriving on your toothbrush.
Are There Any Problems With Bamboo Toothbrushes?
While bamboo toothbrushes are great for the environment in various ways, there are some important things to know about them.
Here are some potential cons associated with bamboo toothbrushes:
You Can’t Recycle Every Part Of Your Bamboo Toothbrush
The great thing about bamboo toothbrushes is that you can recycle their handle and packaging because these are usually biodegradable. By comparison, plastic toothbrushes can’t easily be recycled and it doesn’t help that their packaging is often also made of plastic.
However, sometimes bamboo toothbrushes get a bad rap because they contain bristles that are made out of nylon. This means you have to remove the bristles before you can go ahead and recycle the bamboo toothbrush.
Nylon Is Toxic For The Environment
Nylon is particularly problematic for the environment because it’s not biodegradable. During its manufacturing process, nylon produces nitrous oxide, which is a greenhouse gas that’s 310 times more powerful than carbon dioxide!
Bamboo Toothbrushes Can Result In Carbon Emissions
Another issue with bamboo toothbrushes is that most of the world’s bamboo is grown and manufactured in China. In fact, this country is the largest producer and exporter of bamboo.
Transporting the bamboo toothbrushes to consumers wherever they live in the world results in a high quantity of carbon emissions being produced.
Some Bamboo Toothbrush Manufacturers Greenwash Consumers
We’ve already mentioned that bamboo toothbrushes tend to be made of nylon. Maybe you’ve heard that this nylon could be of the Nylon-6 or Nylon-4 variety.
The latter is usually said to be biodegradable by bamboo toothbrush manufacturers, but it isn’t real unless it’s been made in the right laboratory conditions.
When shopping for bamboo toothbrushes, it can be difficult to purchase them because of how some companies greenwash their consumers, promising that the nylon bristles in their toothbrushes are biodegradable when they’re actually not.
Bamboo Toothbrushes Are Susceptible To Mould
You have to be careful when storing your bamboo toothbrush because it’s more prone to becoming mouldy than a plastic toothbrush. This is because it’s an organic material.
To prevent this from happening, you have to ensure that you clean your bamboo toothbrush properly and dry it well after every use, such as with a towel.
It’s also a good idea to keep bamboo toothbrushes in separate cups in the bathroom and ensure that they’re in well-ventilated areas so that they can be aired out on a daily basis.
This point as well as the one about how nylon bristles of a bamboo toothbrush have to be removed before you can throw your toothbrush into the compost heap might make you feel like having a bamboo toothbrush is a bit high-maintenance.
Is A Bamboo Toothbrush Really The Best Eco-Friendly Option?
Although bamboo is clearly better than plastic in many ways, a bamboo toothbrush might not be the best option for the planet, even though it is doing a lot of good for it.
A study that was published in the British Dental Journal studied four types of toothbrushes – a plastic manual toothbrush, a bamboo manual toothbrush, a plastic manual toothbrush that had a replaceable head, and an electric toothbrush – in order to do lifecycle assessments on them.
These assessments are important because they take into account the raw materials that are extracted in order to make the toothbrushes and how they’re processed before they’re manufactured, distributed, used, and disposed of or recycled.
The study found that the electric toothbrush was the most harmful to the environment. Both the bamboo toothbrush and plastic toothbrush with a replaceable head performed better than the traditional plastic toothbrush and electric toothbrush.
The study’s lead researcher Dr. Brett Duane stated that bamboo toothbrushes aren’t the answer to a more eco-friendly lifestyle because growing bamboo plants take up a lot of lands that could be used to encourage greater diversity or growing forests.
Interestingly, he added that the best toothbrush would be one that uses plastic which can be recycled in a continuous process. This is because, unlike bamboo, plastic doesn’t require a lot of lands, doesn’t need a lot of water, and if it can be recycled properly this would be the best solution.
So…Should You Purchase A Bamboo Toothbrush?
After reading the above-mentioned study as well as the cons associated with bamboo toothbrushes, you might wonder if they’re still worth purchasing.
They are! In many ways, bamboo is better than plastic, such as when it comes to how it can decompose quicker and you can throw it in your compost bin so it won’t go to the landfills like plastic does.
Although bamboo toothbrushes are not the perfect eco-friendly solution, such as because they usually contain nylon bristles that can’t be composted, they are still a giant step forward when it comes to reducing environmental harm.
Their benefits outweigh their drawbacks, and there’s no doubt that using plastic toothbrushes doesn’t really have any benefits. Plastic is more about environmental drawbacks than advantages, so that’s worth bearing in mind.
Right now, bamboo is the best plastic alternative we have when it comes to toothbrushes.
What Is The Future Of Toothbrushes?
The future of toothbrushes is definitely eco-friendly!
Oral hygiene product manufacturers, such as Colgate, are already moving forward with more eco-friendly toothbrush options. In 2019, they launched their own bamboo toothbrush that’s coated in beeswax to make it more durable and water-resistant.
There’s also the move towards making toothbrushes with removable heads. This can make the toothbrush last longer, which prevents it from being thrown away and ending up in landfills.
For example, 90 out of every 100 toothbrushes can be rescued from landfills if they have replaceable heads.
How often should you replace your toothbrush?
Whether it’s plastic or bamboo, you should always replace your toothbrush every three to four months, but sooner if you notice any of the bristles are frayed or damaged.
How can you remove the nylon bristles on a bamboo toothbrush?
You can easily remove these bristles with pliers.
Plastic or bamboo toothbrush?
If you’re still using a plastic toothbrush, you might be tempted to replace it with a bamboo one. This is said to be more environmentally friendly, but there are some important things to know about it.
In this article, we’ve looked at the pros and cons of bamboo toothbrushes. Ultimately, it’s clear to see that compared to plastic, bamboo is still the better option.