Bamboo toothbrushes were probably the first, widely available switch2bamboo that anyone could have made which means many of you will already have made the switch.
But how do you dispose of a bamboo toothbrush?
The American Dental Association recommends replacing your toothbrush every three to four months, or once the bristles are damaged.
Over the course of a year, that’s 158 million toothbrushes used in California alone.
What are they made of?
Bristle toothbrushes similar to today’s products were first seen in China during the 7th century Tang dynasty. With bamboo handles and boar hair bristles they would have looked very familiar to us.
Boar bristle toothbrushes are still made today so if you’re looking for a toothbrush that is completely biodegradable then these certainly fit the bill.
Boar bristles are fairly harsh when used as toothbrushes, sometimes irritating the gums and they aren’t particularly durable in comparison to nylon.
Also, because they exist purely as a byproduct of the meat industry, they are clearly ethically problematic.
If you’ve made a commitment to be vegan you can still opt for a 100% biodegradable toothbrush with natural bristles in the form of plant-based bristles made from castor beans!
These vegetable oil-based bristles tend to soften in warm water but manufacturers state that they last just as long as nylon toothbrushes.
Other bamboo toothbrushes are made with nylon bristles which, although enable the manufacturers to offer a wider range of options when it comes to hardness/softness, they will, however, need to be removed from the handle in order to compost the bamboo.
How are bamboo toothbrushes made?
If we take a look at how a bamboo toothbrush is assembled we can see the component parts and discover if each part is biodegradable or not.
The handle is made from 100% organic bamboo and can be recycled, reused or composted.
The bristles can be composted too if they are plant or animal-based, but if they’re nylon then they must be plucked out (pliers are good for this!).
The nylon tufts can go in with your hard plastic recycling but watch out for any small metal staples. These are how the tufts are attached to the handle and may come out when you pull out the bristles.
Can I compost them?
Bamboo handle = yes
Boar bristles = yes
Plant-based bristles = yes
Nylon bristles = no (but you can recycle with your plastic waste)
No garden? Pop them in your neighbor’s garden recycling bin or one of your local municipal composting sites.
Is using bamboo better than recycling plastic toothbrushes?
Absolutely. Your bamboo handle can be composted, or reused in the garden as small stakes or plant labels.
Whereas a traditional plastic toothbrush needs to use more energy when it enters the recycling process again. And that’s if your local waste collectors even recycle them. So many of them didn’t that Colgate partnered with TerraCycle in order to provide a way for people to recycle their brushes and packaging.
Reusing your old toothbrushes
With a little ingenuity, you can really make sure you get every little bit of usefulness from your old toothbrushes before you finally dispose of them.
- Got a dog? They make great Kong cleaners, really getting into the corners inside.
- With a permanent marker, you can turn them into plant labels for the garden or small supports for new seedlings.
- They’re great for cleaning around the base of faucets. Mix a little lemon juice and salt to really scrub away any limescale buildup.
- Saw the handle off and keep the head as a mini travel nail brush.
- They are fantastic for vehicle detailing. Cleaning in the air vents, around the gear shifter and getting into that join between the dash and the windshield.
- Add them to your children’s art kit. Use them as paintbrushes or use them to add texture to clay modelling.
- They are ideal for cleaning jewellery, especially ultra-soft brushes.
- They’re a bicycle mechanics’ favourite when it comes to cleaning chains. Hold the brush against the chain and turn slowly whilst you watch it collect all the nasty road grime.
This is how you recycle your old bamboo toothbrush;
- Pull out the bristles if they’re nylon
- Recycle the bristles with your plastic waste
- Compost the handle yourself or put it in your garden waste recycling
How long do bamboo toothbrushes last?
Bamboo toothbrushes last just as long as traditional plastic ones and the American Dental Association recommends replacing your toothbrush every three to four months, or once the bristles are damaged.
What should I look for in a bamboo toothbrush?
You should look for exactly the same things you would in a plastic brush. Is it the right shape and size for your mouth? Is the texture of the bristles suitable for you? If you’re looking for a fully compostable brush, look for plant-based bristles instead of nylon.
Do Bamboo toothbrushes have plastic bristles?
A lot of manufacturers use nylon bristles but you can also find those who use boar bristles and, more recently, plant-based bristles made from vegetable oil.
Are Bamboo toothbrushes better than plastic?
Do bamboo toothbrushes harbor bacteria?
Bamboo toothbrushes harbor fewer bacteria than traditional toothbrushes due to their antimicrobial properties. Just as with other toothbrushes, storing them upright and dry after use is the best way to keep them sanitary.
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