Well yes, a single toothbrush isn’t going to save the earth. But a single one is going to kill multiple seabirds and marine mammals. And a million of them is going to harm the oceans as a whole.
Imagine that dentists tell everybody to change their toothbrushes every 3 months – that’s 4 toothbrushes a year per person! Where this claim of having to change your toothbrush every 3 months comes from, is an entire other discussion for me. (Industry!) Say that only half the people in the US alone brush their teeth every day and do this. That’s 150million x 4 = 600 million toothbrushes a year from the US alone. Then you can stretch this to other Western countries, developed Asian countries and populations etc.
In Bonaire or any other beach I’ve been to for any type of clean-up, including in Vava’u and in Clipperton, toothbrushes always were by the thousands! We know in Clipperton for sure, none of them were from local sources and that is 900 miles to the nearest land.
Just as easy as it is for us to say “it’s been like this” it is as easy to say “there is a better way we do things”.
If you choose to make another leap – one easy way of staying plastic free is considering alternatives to the common toothbrush.
Bamboo is always a great alternative. When they first came out the choices were limited, but the options are quickly growing – I swear by them. 😃 Though be careful, some bristles are still made of non-recyclable plastics – I recommend “Brush with Bamboo”. Another option is WowE – their product is very good AND they give back to the community by planting a tree for each toothbrush.
Issue with Bamboo toothbrushes: The bristles
The bristles are usually made of nylon – their grade similar to the nylon used in carpeting. So the recycling for them is not the same as curbside. IF you place the bristles into the curbside recycling, they will cause more harm than good. Here’s more detail from Brush with Bamboo’s page on the topic
. Throwing them to landfill is also not a good idea, given their shape and size, they are more likely to get blown away or washed down from rains and winds. The best deal would be to have a recycling program implemented with a recycling center or a community – collecting the bristles and giving them to recyclers who specialize in nylon. Then there are other “alternatives”.
Extra-Caution: Bamboo Toothbrushes with non-nylon Bristles??
Researching for this article I’ve found that there are a few options now who make bristles from charcoal. I found Tranquilo
– they claim to be 100% recyclable. Though further research shows that the majority of the toothbrushes use a nylon base with some charcoal coverup. There doesn’t seem to be any contact information or any website for them, so not sure how to verify the claims. I’ll keep you posted.
Be careful of the claims made online about products that lead to dead ends.
Surely – being able to compost the toothbrush handles rather than sending them to landfills and oceans is a better option. Still leaves the bristles – which are smaller and more difficult to handle – as an issue for the environment The problem lies in how we like to do “business” using tricky, confusing language. None of the toothbrushes I was able to find so far appear to be 100% biodegradable even though they claim so on their packaging and product pages.
Here’s another option: Boie
This is a different concept – still plastic and the bristles are harder than the bamboo ones – AND they are fully recyclable at any facility who recycles #7 plastics. They are NY based and all products are made in the USA, which is another reason to select them. Maybe their next product will be made out of recycled ocean plastic too and they’ll give back to the Ocean Clean-up Project or something. 😉
We’re all in this together
Another sensible thing to do is to call the toothbrush manufacturer – and ask them what to do with the toothbrushes and bristles to keep them out of landfills and oceans. Or speak with your dentist
to implement a toothbrush take-back program where the toothbrushes are then melted and recycled into other plastic goods.
We do have a lot of power, we just need to accept it. 😉
Thank you for reading, please leave a comment if you have any specific questions and suggestions. Stay with love with mother nature and our beautiful blue and wishing you a plastic free day! 💙🐬💙
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