A plastic toothbrush takes up to 500 years to dissolve completely. And on average a toothbrush should be changed every 3 months.... when you consider the part of the world's population that uses them, it quickly becomes clear that a sustainable alternative is needed.
Bamboo toothbrushes are becoming a popular alternative to plastic ones, and they're not the only one.
But let's start with the problem: toothbrushes are difficult to recycle.
Bamboo toothbrushes are manual toothbrushes (but now there are also electric alternatives) with a similar design to those found on store shelves.
A bamboo toothbrush has a long handle and bristles that remove food debris and plaque from your teeth. The key difference is that the long handle is made from bamboo rather than plastic.
But are bamboo toothbrushes really sustainable and plastic-free? And their eco-balance? Are there more environmentally friendly alternatives? And what about the hygiene and efficiency of these toothbrushes?
- Let's start with the properties: bamboo naturally has an antibacterial effect, which has positive effects on our oral hygiene. In principle, as with all toothbrushes, care should be taken to use soft bristles. Bamboo toothbrushes are as efficient as any manual toothbrush. However, they may not be as efficient as an electric toothbrush. This is mostly due to the cleaning technique rather than the toothbrush itself. Electric toothbrushes ensure easy and proper cleaning.
- However, there are some aspects to take into consideration. A bamboo toothbrush takes longer to dry after use than a traditional plastic toothbrush. It is therefore advisable to let them dry in the air and avoid placing them in the classic glass which sooner or later fills up with water.
- The duration , as for normal toothbrushes, is 3 months.
Are bamboo toothbrushes really plastic-free?
Depends. Many are still designed with the bristles made from nylon-4, nylon-6, recyclable PBT, or bamboo viscose. Valid alternatives with natural fiber bristles are emerging. Once the nylon bristles have been removed, the bamboo toothbrush handles can be composted, reused as plant markers for the garden or for other domestic uses.
Some notes on the ecological footprint of Bamboo
Bamboo has a smaller ecological footprint than plastic, because bamboo plants grow rapidly, regrowing what was taken to make the toothbrush. Bamboo is also biodegradable when used in its raw form, which is the case for toothbrush handles. However, it should be said for the sake of completeness that bamboo toothbrushes can prevent the earth from being used for better purposes, such as increasing biodiversity or growing trees to offset carbon emissions.
But we can say that bamboo is ecological, because:
- Unlike wood, bamboo belongs to the grass family. It regenerates, regrowth and spreads much faster than wood.
- Bamboo is extremely strong and at the same time light. It is often referred to as "green steel" due to its strength and hardness.
- Bamboo can grow to its full size in just 3-4 months, compared to trees which can take over 30 years to grow. Under the right conditions, it can grow a meter in 24 hours.
- Bamboo absorbs twice as much carbon dioxide as trees. It also generates a large amount of oxygen (up to 30% more than most other plants).
Alternatives exist, and with very little effort we can make a difference. Every little daily gesture counts.