I have been using the same toothbrush for longer than 3 years now. I have never imagined I would have to write about that memorable encounter, but here I am, trying to convince you to bring that zero-waste eco-friendly toothbrush in your life too. Oh, and there’s nothing to get squeamish about, because I do change the only part that needs to be changed regularly: the head!
No, it’s not an electric toothbrush, which —according to marketing and google searches — seems to be the most popular replaceable head in the world of mainstream oral hygiene. The brush head is replaceable. The handle lasts for years. The raw material: bamboo. It’s also human-powered. Big plus.
Bamboo, Recycled Plastic & The Other Toothbrushes in The Parallel Shopping Universe
The bad news is that eco-friendly toothbrushes are not yet mainstream, despite evidence that most virgin plastic toothbrushes never get recycled, getting dumped in landfills, ending up in oceans, on mountain tops, or remote islands, choking up what’s left of wildlife. Those toothbrushes can also be minced into micro plastics and infest water reserves, ending up back in our own bodies. The fact that a disposable object takes centuries to break down doesn’t seem like a dream design and sustainable production, does it?
We change toothbrushes every 3 – 4 months. That’s around 5 billion toothbrushes in just one year. Now imagine that pretty much every toothbrush you and everyone you know ever used is still around in one form or another.
So, are you ready to look at friendly alternatives?
Because that’s the slightly better news: we’re slowly heading towards sustainability. But this is where you – the consumer – play an essential role.
When picking a toothbrush you have to consider the material the handle is made of – that’s the most wasteful chunk – but also what materials are used for the head, and if the company is trying to reduce the quantity of material (biodegradable or not) used in production. Packaging is just as essential and it mirrors the company’s general approach to production.
Just to clarify, we’re not talking about disposable plastic toothbrushes or electric ones, no matter how powerful the greenwash that backs them up.
Below you have a few examples that don’t add to the problem.
Recycled Plastic & Other Such Options
Yaweco (Germany) is famous for the replaceable head which comes in different versions. It has a tongue cleaning function and is free of plasticizers, bisphenols, and other harmful substances. They’re also produced with solar energy and an in-house water cycle.
You can find out more about the renewable raw materials they use.
The replaceable head system helps save resources because the larger part of the toothbrush can be reused. It’s a practical and sensible solution. The brush head is made of biopolymer based on sugar minerals, mineral fillers, natural waxes, and biodegradable additives. With this option you don’t eliminate plastic from your oral care routine, but at least you know it won’t add to the billions of plastic toothbrushes discarded annually.
The handle of Preserve (USA) – another sustainable toothbrushes brand – is made out of 100% recycled yogurt cups, and other post-consumer #5polypropylene plastic. The bristles are made of tri-level virgin nylon. They’re BPA free and there’s no animal testing involved. It does decrease the demand for virgin plastic toothbrushes.
Bamboo & Other Biodegradable Options
In the biodegradable department, bamboo is the most popular option, but you can use other types of wood, or the good old miswak
(Salvadora persica tree) sticks to chew on.
The bamboo toothbrush was initially just a disposable toothbrush, which would still lead to a significant amount of waste, the big difference being that it was biodegradable waste. Luckily, some of those producing them figured out the replaceable head too. On Zero WasteClub, they even show you how to the change the head.
The Environmental Toothbrush (Australia) is made out of bamboo – a natural cellulose fiber – and is 100 % biodegradable, environmentally sustainable. The amazing growth and self-renewing ability of bamboo means that deforestation is not necessary either. Their packaging is bio-degradable too.
Remember the replaceable head? They figured how to do it on bamboo brushes too. Quite an achievement.
Brush with Bamboo (California) is a family business that’s been around for a decade. Every component of the product is plant-based: bristles, handle, wrapper, and box. The product is made exclusively with Certified 100% Organic Bamboo. Just in case you were wondering, it’s BPA-free, vegan, non-GMO, gluten-fee and non-toxic. As they say: a purchase of this kind of toothbrush is a vote for biobased products that are not fossil fuel-based. They also managed to gather quite an impressive following.
Where To Find Eco-friendly Toothbrushes?
Considering the global plastic crisis, you’d think the bamboo would be on every shop shelf by now. Well, you’d be wrong. Every time I visit the round the corner supermarket or any of the massive ones – where you get lost but you still can’t find what you’re looking for – I browse full of hope for these reusable toothbrushes and their heads, but so far, nothing. The only addition, in the last few months, have been bamboo toothbrushes, tucked in corner somewhere. But I haven’t seen yet the replaceable heads going mainstream.
In London, Planet Organic (most toothbrushes here are bamboo), and Whole Foods have both the recycled plastic and the bamboo ones, as well as some smaller health/alternative stores in more affluent neighborhoods.
As with may sustainable products, the online remains the best place to find them. Try to avoid the mammoth online shopping platforms, and go for the smaller, cleaner ones like:
We’ll keep browsing the shelves, and return with more suggestions, while also looking forward to hearing your own experiences with sustainable toothbrushes. Cheers!
Featured image by Gregor Porada