What is a Bamboo Toothbrush?
Bamboo toothbrushes are similar to any other manual toothbrush you would find on the grocery stores. They have a handle and bristles to remove food bits and plaque from your teeth. The key difference between bamboo toothbrushes and plastic toothbrushes is the material used to make the handle.
Bamboo plants, unlike other trees, grow quickly, need little maintenance and may thrive without fertilizer or pesticides.
When used in its raw form, such as in the shape of a toothbrush handle, bamboo does have a considerably smaller ecological footprint compared to plastic. This is because bamboo is biodegradable. You can compost the handles of bamboo toothbrushes if you first remove the nylon bristles. You can also find ways to creatively reuse the toothbrush handles, such as turning them into plant markers for your garden, or you can also use them as an eyebrow brush when removing them at night.
How eco-friendly is your bamboo toothbrush?
When you buy one bamboo toothbrush, it means that one less plastic is going to the landfill, or the ocean. While this is a good way to go, we cannot help by get curious if we companies really tell us what they really claim. While searching for a good toothbrush, I came across this article online entitled, “The Truth about Your Biodegradable Toothbrush”.
A-Hao, who owns a plastic-free products shop called Simple Eco Life in Taiwan, was selling a toothbrush called The Environmental Toothbrush, and she wanted to know if the bristles really were made from Nylon-4.
Nylon-4 is a petroleum (= fossil fuel) based plastic that is said to biodegrade within months. Long story short: Nylon-4 seems to be biodegradable (not compostable), as studies like this one suggest.
To answer her claims, she brought the said toothbrushes to the laboratory to have it tested. The result showed that the toothbrushes are made out of Nylon-6 which is neither biodegradable nor recyclable.
According to A-Hao, western companies who sell these bamboo toothbrushes often do not communicate directly with their Chinese manufacturers (yes, most are sourced from China) but through an agency. It’s possible that they are being misled by the agencies that set up the manufacturing partnerships.
There are also other claims that their bristles are made from charcoal-enhanced Bamboo Bristles, and some other brands use pig hair. While these can all be true, what we can do is to always ask these brands not only about the after life of their products but the process before they reach the hands of the consumers. This is not to judge them but they to ask them if we’re doing more harm than good.
Note: Your bamboo toothbrushes aren’t eco-friendly if they end up in the trash. They aren’t significantly more environmentally friendly than their plastic counterpart because they don’t decompose well unlike what we imagined. Compost or repurposed them instead.
While zero waste or low impact living isn’t about perfectionism, this shouldn’t be an avenue for green businesses to not become transparent of what they do and what they sell. Let’s support them but never forget to guide them to the right direction.