Environmental Toothbrush

For many years, I have used an electric toothbrush. My family had one when I was growing up and I have used one ever since. I always thought of it as an important tool to maintain oral hygiene and health. Since starting this project almost a year ago, I have been using the same replacement head. The brush is becoming pretty shabby and less effective. I knew that I wouldn’t be buying a new replacement head (because they’re made out of plastic and come in plastic packaging), so I planned to transition to a more sustainable manual toothbrush. 

I had read that there are recyclable and compostable toothbrushes on the market. I considered buying a preserve toothbrush, which is made from recycled yogurt cups and will be turned into plastic lumber if you ship it back to the company once the toothbrush is spent. But I struggle with the idea that that a park bench made from that plastic lumber will eventually end up in a landfill. So I set my heart on finding a compostable brush instead. The problem with this option is that currently, there are no compostable toothbrushes being made or even sold in the United States. 

After a lot of research, I found myself torn between two products. The first is a pig’s hair and beechwood toothbrush manufactured in Germany sold on the Life Without Plastic website. The bristles come from longhaired pigs that are bred and raised for meat in China. I’m not sure where the beechwood comes from. The head of this toothbrush is wrapped in a small piece of biodegradable plastic.

The second toothbrush I considered was The Environmental Toothbrush, which is made with nylon 4 and bamboo—sold in Australia. I settled on The Environmental Toothbrush, in part because it is more affordable and because the packaging is 100% paper. I was also very satisfied with my email correspondence with the company’s international sales manager. He provided thorough answers to all my questions about the nylon bristles, materials sourcing, and shipping materials. Still, it’s difficult to for me to determine whether or not this particular product was the best choice from an environmental standpoint.

The toothbrushes are sourced and manufactured in China then shipped to Australia, where they are then shipped to national and international buyers. Of course the fuel required to bring this product to my doorstep is quite problematic. I was told by the sales manager that they are desperately seeking a distributor in the US. I’m also not sure how I feel about the synthetic bristles on this brush, but currently the only other compostable option on the market is an animal product, which presents a whole other set of issues. I was told that in standard composts, the bristles should break down in 12-24 months. Below is an extract from a scientific journal that was included in the email.

Nylon 4

It has been reported that nylon 4 was degraded in the soil and in the activated sludge. The results confirmed that Nylon 4 is readily degradable in the environment. Furthermore, the biodegradability of nylon 4 and nylon 6 blends was investigated in compost and activated sludge. The nylon 4 in the blend was completely degraded in 4 months while nylon 6 was not degraded [90]. Recently, Yamano et al. was able to isolate polyamide 4 degrading microorganisms (ND-10 and ND-11) from activated sludge. The strains were identified as Pseudomonas sp. The supernatant from the culture broth of strain ND-11 degraded completely the emulsified nylon 4 in 24 h and produced γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) as degradation product.

Above is the package as it arrived, in a small piece of brown paper (secured with plastic packing tape).

The toothbrushes are packaged in unbleached paper. I bought one package, which contains 12 brushes.

It certainly looks nice. I will provide reviews once I have used it for a while.

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5 Responses to Environmental Toothbrush

  1. elysia March 1, 2013 at 1:03 am #

    I actually wanted to buy these brushes, how are they?

    • Colleen March 2, 2013 at 1:23 am #

      Hi Elysia! I love my compostable toothbrush. Depending on your stance on the matter, this may sound a little gross, but I have been using the same brush since I got my shipment last March. And it is finally starting to show some wear. The bristles have fallen out of a couple of the holes in the bamboo brush head. But I’m still using it, and it works perfectly well. I am careful to dry it out after each use. I receive a clean bill of health every time I see my dentist, so the brush must be doing it’s job :) I will say that I’ve given some to several friends and one reported that the bristles fell out of one of the holes after about a week of using it. But then the rest of the brush stayed intact. Not sure where you are from, but I wanted to mention that a friend of mine recently shared this with me: https://www.facebook.com/livePLUSULTRA. I’ve been meaning to do some research to see if and when these will be available in Whole Foods Market stores across the country. It’s an exciting potential source for compostable toothbrushes distributed here in the States.

      • Elysia March 2, 2013 at 3:33 am #

        I’m actually from Hawaii and have set my heart on a pack of these brushes from eBay. I guess I was attracted to it when I seen it had a Panda on it, then I read what they were. I am starting to go MORE green and these are just perfect. I don’t know if its a connection but I had a bamboo back scrubber for the shower and I have noticed the bristles falling off from the bamboo head. I mean I love to scrub the living soul off my back but even with a gentle scrub, it would fall. Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that the bristles are attached to wood handles? Dont worry about not changing your brush after a year, if it is in working condition still and no funky smell, it is still a go lol.

  2. Helen McCarthy November 13, 2015 at 1:28 am #

    I have used two different kinds, currently using this same brush! I find the bristles stay in well, but bend quite fast, the other one that I believe was maybe the pigs hair one, didnt misshape as quickly. Also, I was just wondering today, why have the environmental toothbrush companies not thought to make replaceable heads? If I could reuse the same handle and in one shipment recieve ten new brush heads, that would greatly decrease the need for wood, and the need for constant international shipments!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. My bathroom | no trash project - February 1, 2013

    […] A cup of grooming tools (my toothbrush, gum stimulator, safety razor, tweezers, cuticle trimmer, and nail brush) sits on my windowsill next to the jar of baking soda I use to clean my teeth. I use the small stainless steel spoon to scoop a tiny bit onto my compostable toothbrush. […]

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