As well as switching plastic coffee cups, drinking straws and shopping bags for the sake of the environment – it’s time to think about what you use to brush your teeth.
What with the vast majority of toothbrushes being plastic, you’ll end up throwing away a lot of the stuff if you adhere to most manufacturers’ recommendations to replace your toothbrush every three months.
Thankfully, there is an alternative available: Bamboo toothbrushes, which are made from more sustainable materials. Once you’re finished with one, you can compost the handle and recycle the bristles.
So should you make the switch? We found out everything you need to know.
The Environmental Credentials
“Bamboo toothbrush handles can take around six months to compost, while a plastic one takes hundreds of years to fully break down,” Emma Priestland, plastic-free campaigner at Friends Of The Earth, told HuffPost UK.
There is also a risk that toothbrushes, like other plastic waste, may end up in the oceans. For Natalie Fee, founder of plastic pollution campaign group City To Sea, seeing the environmental impact of plastic toothbrushes on wildlife firsthand was enough to encourage a full-on switch to bamboo.
“Four years ago I saw a photo of a toothbrush inside the belly of an albatross chick and stopped using plastic toothbrushes,” she told HuffPost UK. “I’d never really thought about where they end up and I was horrified to think that they could end up in our oceans.”
Bamboo toothbrushes also have a lower carbon footprint, as no oil has been extracted to make the material for the body of the brush, according to Daniel Jones, co-founder of bamboo toothbrush subscription service, Bristle (which also offers biodegradable dental floss).
“Swapping from a plastic to a bamboo toothbrush is such an easy thing for a person to do to immediately reduce the plastic waste created in their household,” Jones told HuffPost UK.
It is worth doing your due diligence on the brand that you are buying from, to check that the bristles are made from recyclable plastic or a biodegradable substance. “Check the materials list when buying if you want to ensure you’re going fully plastic-free,” Priestland advised.
“Four years ago I saw a photo of a toothbrush inside the belly of an albatross chick and stopped using plastic toothbrushes.'”
Where To Buy Them
Unfortunately, the prices of bamboo toothbrushes are slightly less sustainable: while you can easily pick up a plastic toothbrush for as cheap as £1, a bamboo one is going to cost you roughly £2.50 each, sometimes less if you buy in bulk or commit to a subscription service.
Superdrug also offers a more sustainable toothbrush option – a bamboo Humble Brush for £3.99.
So, Is This The Future?
Well, it’s certainly a good option if you’re looking to keep your daily routine as plastic-free as possible. Another positive step would be for existing plastic toothbrushes to have recyclable options, according to Fee. But, for now, bamboo is the sustainable way forward for your teeth cleaning routine.
“I feel happier using a bamboo toothbrush and putting it in the compost or using it as a plant marker in my garden when its toothbrushing days are over,” she said.