Isn’t it unnerving to realize that the toothbrush you had when you were a kid is still out there in the world? If you’ve never thought about switching out your plastic toothbrush for a better alternative, now is the time to do so! In the United States alone, 1 billion plastic toothbrushes are disposed of every year. This makes for a total of 50 million pounds of plastic waste that ends up in landfills or our oceans, each year! Plastic is difficult to recycle and as a result, a lot of the plastic waste inevitably ends up in the environment which causes more plastic pollution. It could take up to 1,000 years to break down the microplastics that eventually end up buried in the soil or in the water.
So with the negative impact of plastic on nature and to our own health, what would be the sustainable alternative to plastic toothbrushes? The answer is: bamboo toothbrushes. Bamboo has natural cellulose fibers, the same fibers in cotton, jute, and hemp. Bamboo naturally has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties - which is why it’s known as a super plant. Products that use bamboo such as bamboo toothbrushes are eco friendly and feature 100% biodegradable handles that can end up returning nutrients to the soil. Let us take a look into the life of a bamboo toothbrush from the bamboo forest to returning to the soil:
The Beginning: Bamboo Forests
Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants that are native to China, Asia, and South America. While the plant is strong and stiff, it does not require much water and can grow at a fast rate of 35 inches per day which is really fast! Bamboo plants grow naturally and there is no requirement for using artificial chemicals like pesticides. On top of that, bamboo plants absorb more carbon dioxide than other plants and they produce 30% more oxygen.
The Creation: How Bamboo Toothbrushes are Made
Not only is the bamboo environmentally friendly, but so is the production process!
The bamboo is first harvested then laid out to dry. Depending on the season, the length of drying time required depends on whether it is hot and dry or cold and rainy. After allowing the bamboo to dry, it is cut into small pieces. For round bamboo toothbrushes, like MamaP’s, the bamboo reeds are cut. For the flat and rigid bamboo toothbrushes, the reeds are cut horizontally to achieve a flat shape. The cutting process is relatively simple to achieve the length of a handy bamboo toothbrush.
Shaping and Treatment
Each piece of the bamboo reeds are hand shaped on a sanding machine. This is a quick process and allows for MamaP’s round shape to achieve smooth edges. After the bamboo toothbrush handles are shaped, they are treated with organic materials such as beeswax to help nourish the wood and add a smoother finish.
For bristles, they are implanted with a special machine in a process called tufting. The toothbrush heads have holes drilled and then the bristles are implanted. At our factory, this process requires someone to feed the toothbrushes into the bristles implantation machine. They will also place the Dupont bristles into the machine and from there the bristles are automatically implanted. While our factory has staff that manages the productivity of each machine, they also manually check each and every piece to assure quality.
Handling and Caring for a Bamboo Toothbrush
Bamboo toothbrushes require different handling and care because the bamboo is an organic material and begins to decompose if not allowed to dry. For bamboo toothbrushes with painted handles, like MamaP’s, these are the best. The paint provides a temporary sealant for up to four months and prevents early decomposition - unlike unsealed bamboo toothbrush handles. The only difference in using a bamboo toothbrush is letting it dry vertically.
The best bamboo toothbrush stands have quick dry properties, made of diatomaceous earth. MamaP offers Quick Dry Toothbrush Stands for this very reason. This incredible material minimizes mildew and mold AND dries your bamboo toothbrush very quickly.
The Lifespan of a Bamboo Toothbrush
The life of the bamboo toothbrush is up to 3 to 4 months as dentists recommend. Even though the bamboo toothbrush handle is made from organic material, they still hold up to the of time, compared to plastic. The American Association of Dentists recommends toothbrushes be replaced every 4 month maximum. So even though bamboo and plastic toothbrushes could be usable beyond 4 months, from a health and sanitary perspective, they should not.
The End: How to Compost a Bamboo Toothbrush
It is simple to compost your bamboo toothbrush because the material is already organic. The Compost process is particularly more straightforward than you might think. It only involves two steps which is totally worth it to make your bamboo toothbrush 100% biodegradable.
Step 1: Break off the head of the bamboo toothbrush
The bristles need to be separated from the handle so breaking off the head of the bamboo toothbrush is important in separating organic from produced materials. There currently aren’t dentist-approved compostable bristles, therefore nylon is used which is not biodegradable and needs to be disposed of in the trash. We always recommend keeping the bristles intact to prevent tiny plastics. The smaller the plastic, the easier it is to end up in the environment.
Step 2: Compost the bamboo toothbrush handle
Bamboo toothbrushes can decompose in as little as 3-4 months. A super plant indeed!
Several conditions such as atmosphere, temperature, the humidity of the soil, etc. all determine the amount of time it takes for decomposition. While a bamboo toothbrush is biodegradable in nature, they can also be sent to compost which speeds up the decomposition process. Here are just a few of the different types of composting methods that you can choose from:
- Industrial Composting: an industrial composter can decompose the handle of your bamboo toothbrush in a few weeks
- Home Composting: a home composter can take 4-6 months depending on the physical conditions
- Natural Composting: those who bury their toothbrushes can expect decomposition around 3 years
When the next time comes that you need to replace your old toothbrush with a new one, pass on the plastic toothbrush and pick up a bamboo toothbrush! This one simple change not only helps your health, but also the planet. Try one of MamaP’s biodegradable bamboo brushes today, available in both adults and kids. With each color, MamaP supports a different cause and non-profit. From Ocean Conservation to LGBTQ+ Equality, you choose who to support. MamaP believes we can do good and live better. Everyday.