In the United States alone, 1 Billion plastic toothbrushes are disposed of every year. This makes the total of 50 million pounds of plastic waste headed to landfills or our oceans, every year. That’s a lot of plastic waste that could end up in nature.
As a consequence of plastic products, there is a growing awareness of plastic’s impact on nature and to our own health. Over the last few years, people have become more environmentally conscious. By making the switch from plastic to bamboo toothbrushes and choosing eco friendly and with 100% biodegradable handles. In this article, we will discuss the Life of a Bamboo Toothbrush.
The Beginning: The Life Of A Bamboo Forest
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 can grow at a fast rate of 35 inches per day. That is really fast!
There are different species of bamboo plants, yet all are eco friendly. The plants are well known for not requiring much water and spreading rapidly. Bamboo is a super plant and can grow above 90 feet in just 90 days.
Bamboo plants grow naturally and there is no requirement for using artificial chemicals like pesticides. Moreover, bamboo plants absorb more carbon dioxide than other plants and they produce 30% more oxygen.
How Bamboo Toothbrushes Are Made: The Manufacturing Process
Not only is the bamboo environmentally friendly, but so is the production process. After harvesting the bamboo, it is first 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.
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. In addition to managing the productivity of each machine, our factory has staff that manually check each and every piece to assure quality.
How Long do Bamboo Toothbrushes Last?
The life of the bamboo toothbrush is up 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 recommend toothbrushes are 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.
Most people are familiar with handling and using a plastic toothbrush. Brush, rinse, place in a holder or lay flat on a shelf. For bamboo toothbrushes, they require different handling and care, but nothing time consuming. This is because 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 minimized mildew and mold AND dries your bamboo toothbrush very quickly.
Bamboo Toothbrush Benefits Over Plastic Toothbrushes
Over the past few years, people are becoming more environmentally conscious and using more eco-friendly products. Not only is plastic waste a big problem causing water and land pollution, but so are greenhouse gases that are causing the Earth to warm at increasing levels. Greta Thundberg has become the face of youth activism in bringing climate change front and center with weekly Climate Strikes back in 2019.
According to a study, the average person uses 300 toothbrushes in his life span, which is quite considerable. But where do they go? Is there enough space for them?
The sad answer is, once a plastic toothbrush ends up in the environment or the landfill, it could take up to 1,000 years to break down into microplastics. Breaking down into smaller particles which is eventually buried in the soil or ends up in the water.
Don’t Fear, There Is Hope! Bamboo has natural cellulose fibers, the same fibers in cotton, jute, and hemp. Bamboo naturally has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties - no wonder it’s called a super plant. Products that use bamboo like a bamboo toothbrush are completely biodegradable in nature and can return nutrients to the soil.
The one thing you will have to be mindful of are the bristles. There currently aren’t dentist-approved compostable bristles, and therefore nylon is used. Dupont nylon bristles are used in most toothbrushes and Dupont has very high quality standards. With nylon, most often curbside recycling isn’t available. There are companies like TerraCycle that recycle toothbrushes, including their bristles.
You might be wondering, "How Do I Dispose of Bamboo Toothbrush?" Let’s have a look.
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
This is an important first step in separating organic from produced materials. The main reason is to separate the bristles from the handle.
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. We DO NOT recommend removing bristles with pliers for this very reason.
The bristles commonly used in bamboo toothbrushes are nylon and not biodegradable and will need to be disposed of in the trash. Hopefully one day local city recycling programs can accept this type of plastic.
Step 2: Compost The Bamboo Toothbrush Handle
Contrary to plastic toothbrushes which may take more or less 1000 years for decomposition, Bamboo toothbrushes can decompose in as little as 3-4 months. Super plant indeed!
The amount of time required for bamboo toothbrush handle decomposition depends on several conditions such as atmosphere, temperature, the humidity of soil...etc. If you have ever taken organic chemistry, you are likely aware of the organic chemical reactions necessary to break down organic materials.
While a bamboo toothbrush is biodegradable in nature, they can also be sent to compost which speeds up the decomposition process more quickly. Here are the different types of composting methods, to name a few:
Industrial & Commercial Composting
They require weeks for decomposition. This is because they have staff who maintain the compost builds daily. Our favorite and local composting facility, Earth Matter is here in New York City on Governors Island. They monitor temperatures, the ratio of organic matter, and process (or turn) the compost builds constantly. Once the compost has turned into soil, it is used throughout NYC’s parks and highly nutrient soil is returned to Earth. We recommend searching for a local facility near you. That way you can drop bamboo toothbrush handles, food scraps, or yard waste and contribute to your local community.
The second option are home composters and the decomposition process takes about 4 to 6 months. The longer time compared to commercial composting is due to the volume of organic material. You will likely need a yard or space in your home. This method is perfect for gardeners and allows you to produce your own high nutrient soil.
This process usually takes around 3 years. You can throw or bury your bamboo toothbrush (without bristles) in the garden to decompose completely, without any additional effort. The reason nature takes longer than composting is due to the organic chemistry that composting offers.
We recommend composting first and if there are no facilities near you, nature is second best.
The goal is not only to remove plaque from your teeth and stay healthy. You also have to think about caring for both yourself, your family, and the planet. Try one of MamaP’s biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes 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.