One of the first things you touch in the morning, and also one of the last things you touch before you go to bed, is your toothbrush. People have been using instruments to clean their teeth for centuries, and their love for dental care was proved in a 2003 MIT survey, where interviewees were asked what object they couldn’t live without and toothbrushes rated higher than cars, personal computers, or cellphones.
So, with the majority of toothbrushes being made out of plastic, and with dental professionals recommending patients to change their toothbrush about every three months, how wasteful is this daily cleaning ritual?
Toothbrushes throughout history
Apparently humans have always been obsessed with dental hygiene. Archeologists have in fact found “tooth sticks” in Egyptian tombs, and we also have Roman scriptures by poet Ovid in which he states the importance of washing teeth daily. Throughout history and throughout different parts of the world “toothbrushes” have always been made using natural materials. Some were made of boar bristles set into a bone or wood handle, some were made with chew sticks or scraps of cloth, and those who couldn’t afford much, would simply do with cleaning their teeth using their finger.
The advent of plastic and the toothbrush we use today
In the early 1900s with the invention of a strong, glossy, moldable material called “celluloid” toothbrushes started being shaped into the design we know today. Practical, customizable and cheap, plastic handles were soon joined by synthetic nylon bristles.
Over the years new types of plastic have replaced celluloid in the handle, and bristle designs have also significantly evolved, but in one way or the other, all these materials are still a form of plastic.
In the early 1920s only one in four people in the U.S owned a toothbrush. By the 1930s the numbers started growing exponentially and they’ve never really stopped, since the market for toothbrush has only grown with the advent of electrical toothbrushes. If everyone worldwide followed the guidelines released by The American Dental Association and replaced their toothbrush every three or four months, 23 billion toothbrushes would get thrown away each year.
Considering that plastic is essentially indestructible, and that an average person will replace around 300 toothbrushes during their lifetime, how would you feel if we told you that every single toothbrush made since the 1930s still exists somewhere in the world today?
If we’re “lucky” most of those toothbrushes will have made their way to landfills, but unfortunately a great number made their way to the ocean, where they harm marine life and end up washed ashore.
Kahi Pacarro, founder of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, has organized beach cleanups on some of the worlds most beautiful beaches for years, and says that in any given Hawaii beach cleanup, it’s now not uncommon to pick up a total of 20 or even 100 toothbrushes.
So why aren’t plastic toothbrushes recycled?
The evolution of toothbrushes means that they are made using multiple types of materials (nylon bristles, a metal staple that holds the bristles in place, and plastic or rubber handles) and all these materials need to be separated before they can be processed. Unfortunately not all recycling plants have the right equipment to process them and toothbrushes therefore need to be sent to special centers. Ultimately this means that whenever you try to recycle your toothbrush with the rest of your plastics, it may well be sorted out and sent to a landfill for lack of special machinery.
Switch to Bamboo
When taking care of your dental hygiene leave plastic behind once and for all by making the switch to Bamboo toothbrushes!
Bamboo is a fast-growing, renewable, and easy-to-grow material, in the right conditions it is known to grow over 4 feet a DAY! Bamboo also requires zero chemicals and pesticides and can be grown all throughout the world! Its amazing growth and self-renewing ability makes Bamboo an extremely sustainable natural material, so the exact opposite of plastic!
Plastic free and BPA-free toothbrush, Leafico Bamboo toothbrushes are organic, vegan and 100% environmentally friendly! Our sustainable and recyclable toothbrush is designed with medium soft charcoal infused bristles for natural whitening (so you can ditch the chemical whitening strips too) and it comes with a matching bamboo carrying case that is compact for travel.
Everything from toothbrush handle, bristles, and packaging are all biodegradable, leaving you with clean white teeth, and the planet with less plastic toothbrushes to deal with! What are you waiting for? Make the switch!