Bamboo toothbrushes seem to be all the rage in the zero waste movement. When I first discovered them, there were only a handful of brands. Now they seem to be as ubiquitous as disposable coffee cups. But unlike disposable coffee cups (which are all bad), not all bamboo toothbrushes are created equal.
Before I get into bamboo toothbrushes, I wanted to spend a moment discussing conventional and electric toothbrushes and why they are problematic.
A (very) brief history on toothbrushes
Back in the
day (I’m talking like 150 years ago) toothbrushes were often carved from wood or bone with animal hair bristles. At some point, probably in the mid-1900s when plastic started becoming more popular, toothbrushes went overnight from being made from natural to synthetic materials.
A focus on waste reduction
When I work with individuals and organizations on waste reduction strategies, I always start with the items in the landfill bin that are not recyclable. Modern toothbrushes, which are made from non- and/or hard-to-recycle plastics are essentially trash. And, according to Brush with Bamboo, approximately 4.7 billion plastic toothbrushes are discarded every year worldwide! Tossing one toothbrush every three months might not seem like a lot, but when done by millions of people worldwide, that number adds up.
For about 10 years I used an electric toothbrush, until it finally gave out and stopped working a few months ago. I am not an expert on oral hygiene, but that electric toothbrush no doubt saved me from a few cavities over the years. That being said, but that it failed, I will not be adding a new electric toothbrush into my life. Electric toothbrushes are a form of electronic waste that cannot be thrown in the trash but instead must be sent to a facility for special processing. Although there are definitely benefits to using electric toothbrushes, which are very good at what they do, I just don’t think it is wise to add additional e-waste into our waste stream.
Advocate for Zero Waste
As many of you know from following me for nearly three years now, I rarely do giveaways or endorse products. It is definitely difficult to advocate for living a zero waste lifestyle while hocking products. All this being said, I get asked for recommendations of good brands of bamboo toothbrushes all the time. And since toothbrushes made from bamboo are absolutely better options than ones made from plastic, this seemed like a perfect opportunity.
With so many bamboo toothbrushes on the market, I think it is important to highlight the one company that is doing it right: Brush with Bamboo. I have known the Kumars for a few years now, and even in that time they have made several iterations to their toothbrushes, making them about as sustainable, ethical, and environmentally-friendly are you are going to get. Rohit literally obsessesover sourcing the right materials to make these toothbrushes as low-waste as possible.
Some facts on Brush with Bamboo toothbrushes:
- The only bamboo toothbrush made using a USA-made castor bean oil bioplastic bristle. This is a biobased nylon. It is a step in the right direction, but is unfortunately not compostable (They are actively working on compostable options that are NOT animal-based, like pig hair).
- The only bamboo toothbrush made with German certified 100% Organic Bamboo – wild harvested and single-origin. Manufacturers can use chemicals to quicken the processing of bamboo, but the certification guards against all that chemical junk.
- The packaging is compostable. The box uses no glue or tape. They are required to use a wrapper around the brush because a toothbrush is classified as a medical device in many countries (USA, Canada, and most of Europe). They use old fashioned cellophane. Cellophane an is old material that was invented in Switzerland in 1900 – it is home compostable and commercially compostable.
- Brush is USDA Certified Biobased – a 95% carbon product.
Founder, Zero Waste Guy
Zero Waste Project Manager in Los Angeles – Founder, speaker, and blogger @ZeroWasteGuy.
- Commissioner, Environmental Advisory Commission | City of Pasadena
- Admin, Zero Waste Los Angeles
- Ambassador, 5Gyres Institute