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Bamboo Toothbrush | Keep your oral care harmless to the nature

Image: bamboo toothbrushes (coffee paint)

I had used plastic toothbrushes for as long as I could remember. I used each one till its bristles frayed. Sometimes, I didn’t even wait till that happened, I threw it away right when the bristles’ color faded because someone told me so even though it was still usable. All we did was just buying it, using it, throwing it away, and repeat. We didn’t care about the material, never thought about the alternatives or how much trashy it could get adding up from each household. Even if the fact revealed, what else we could do while those were all there were available in stores?

Changes won’t happen until things go wrong. Thankful for that. Now we’re more educated and more aware of the consequences from mindless consuming. When sustainability/ low-waste practices shine a light on our decisions we make daily, that’s when the products we use in our routine get addressed, improved, tested, and are now available in a more sustainable, low impactful version. Now we see more bamboo toothbrushes on the same retail shelf with the plastic type. 

I’m not sure for how long western countries are familiar with bamboo products, but as a Thai who lived in the countryside in my home country before, I have been super familiar with bamboo products ever since I was little. It’s used for making furniture, cooking materials, decorative goods, and even in construction work. I’m very glad to see that now bamboo gains much more popularity in the US. 

Regarding to Business Insider, The reasons bamboo is a great alternative for many plastic or unsustainable products are:

  • Bamboo adapts itself well in various conditions and can grow anywhere except Antarctica.
  • Bamboo grows fastest compared to other plants. It grows 1.6 feet per hour on average and in about 5 years, reaches maturity.
  • Compared to other plants, it produces more oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide faster.

Sounds like an awesome plant! Now bamboo has been brought to make all kinds of things, including bamboo toothbrushes. 

Now when it comes to navigating sustainability practices in the world of capitalism, things don’t always go to the same direction. Bamboo toothbrushes have been marketed to us like crazy. Manufacturers and companies need to drive big sales in order to earn more profits or beat competitors. So they offer you attractive sales promotions, they deliver engaging, entertaining advertisements that makes you believe that buying their toothbrushes is the solution to a sustainable planet. Well, they are right, but not thoroughly right. What they don’t say is that you should focus on using the brush you already have till it can’t be used anymore, then go grab a bamboo one. This is the core of sustainable best practice, I think. It’s just not being said enough because we all live in capitalism and still need to make money. 

I was about to stumble on these cute bamboo toothbrushes marketing vibe and buy one. What stopped me from buying it that time was I still had the new plastic brush from the old pack I purchased over a year ago. I remember staring at the MamaP brushes on Scoop’s retail shelf (I work at Scoop Marketplace-Seattle’s zero waste grocery store) several times with thoughts in my head and desire of wanting to use it. 

Once I started using that last plastic brush, the bristles were so hard and they scratched my gum while brushing. I hoped they would get softer overtime but they didn’t. After more trials and more bleeding, I dropped the idea of continuing to use it. That’s the point I decided to buy a new bamboo brush at Scoop. Fortunately, we have soft bristle brushes, so it never hurts my gum. I didn’t throw away the tough bristle brush though, instead, I keep it as an all-purpose brush on my sink. It works so well when cleaning stubborn stains. 

Bamboo toothbrushes are better than the plastic ones mainly because the handles are compostable but the plastic ones aren’t. The bristles, mostly made from nylon, which in theory, are recyclable. But in fact, they’re too small and can be dismissed from the recycle bin when collected.

Here are some ideas to deal with them:

  1. Break the head (with bristles attached) from the handle, throw the head in the trash and compost or reuse the handle for other purposes.
    
  2. Remove the bristles with pliers, keep the bristles in a plastic bottle where you keep other too-small-to-recycle or non-recyclable plastic elements. This bottle can be sent to make Ecobricks once it’s tight and full. Learn more about how to make an Ecobrick here. Then you can compost or reuse the handle however you like.

Now I hope you get the idea of why a bamboo toothbrush is an amazing alternative for a plastic brush and how to deal with it at the end of its lifespan. However, if you still have plastic brushes and they don’t hurt your gum, do use them first until you run out. You can recycle the whole brush, including other cleaning product packages that you have collected through TerraCycle program. It partners with Colgate and Tom’s of Maine, but other brand’s packages are welcomed as well. Just make sure that all of them are clean, dry, have no leftover product inside. After that, let’s reduce the hard work of recycling by grabbing yourself that beautiful bamboo brush you have been eyeing for. 

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