More sustainable – Bamboo or Plastic Toothbrush?
Bamboo toothbrushes have been embraced by many as the most sustainable toothbrush option. But the science says otherwise…
At Nada, we believe companies should be responsible for the products they put into the world, from design to disposal (known as cradle to cradle design).
And while plastic straws are getting a lot of negative attention these days, there are a ton of other plastic, disposable items that should be redesigned for sustainability. Like the common toothbrush.
Here's a startling fact:
Globally, it is estimated that over 23 billion plastic toothbrushes are discarded every year, according to a report by the Zero Waste Week campaign.
Every disposable toothbrush ever produced is still somewhere on the planet. This isn't sustainable and is the reason we started Nada toothbrush.
Thankfully, new eco friendly toothbrush alternatives like Nada and bamboo toothbrushes are starting to gain popularity.
But what's the difference and how do they compare? In this post we look at the sustainability difference between drugstore, bamboo and Nada toothbrushes.
Toothbrush Material Breakdown
|Brush Head Material||Plastic||Bamboo||Plastic|
1 – Sustainability
Plastic drugstore toothbrushes
Typical plastic toothbrushes went into production in 1938 and have been popular ever since.
There's not a lot to say about these toothbrushes—they score rock-bottom on sustainability because once disposed of, they take centuries to decompose. Due to the mix of different types of plastics, they can't be recycled.
We also point out in this blog post that they aren't very well designed.
Nada has an aluminum handle you keep for life and recyclable plastic brush heads we take back and recycle.
Aluminum is the most recyclable of all materials. Our handle is lightweight, durable and designed to last for life. This fact alone will divert massive amounts of material from landfill (and recycling, which isn't ideal. First reuse, then reduce…).
Keeping the handle also means that less raw material is being produced and shipped all over the planet. Although bamboo is a very fast-growing plant, using less of it would still be beneficial. The same goes for plastic handles; making less plastic means less fossil fuel is being used for manufacturing and shipping.
As of December, 2020, we have started a new return program. With each Nada order, we include a self-addressed envelope. Nada customers keep their old brush heads and send them back to us in the envelope. We then send then to Terracycle to be recycled.
In the image below you can see our minimalist packaging is made of 100% paper. We try and reduce waste even in our manufacturing, recently requesting our manufacturer wrap our handles in paper rather than plastic.
Bamboo toothbrush handles are made using fast-growing, renewable bamboo (which is actually a grass). The handles are compostable, which is good. Some have painted handles which reduces the environmental benefits.
Unfortunately, a common misconception with bamboo toothbrushes is that they are completely compostable or biodegradable.
Almost none are.
Most bamboo toothbrush bristles are made of Nylon, which is NOT compostable or biodegradable. Some bamboo toothbrush sellers refer to their products as "all natural" or "biodegradable" when in fact only the handle is. The bristles must be removed before disposable. If the bristles are not removed they end up in the environment and because they are so small, they are extremely harmful.
There are a few completely compostable bamboo toothbrushes available such as this model which uses natural pig hair bristles. These models use bristles made of corn and tapioca, but come with a warning around durability and stiffness (your dentist might not love them).
Packaging differs from product to product but many use paper which is good.
Price and Performance
There is too much variety for us to price every toothbrush on the market, but quick research reveals:
- good quality drugstore toothbrushes cost between $4 and $9 each
- bamboo toothbrushes cost between $4.50 and $10 each
- Nada brush heads can be purchased for as little as $3.00 each
In terms of performance, bamboo has a unique 'mouthfeel' due to the wood texture. They also dry more slowly and should be stored in a way to minimize contact with germs.
As always, there are pros and cons with the choice of materials. If you're looking for an eco friendly toothbrush, we strongly suggest Nada or Bamboo over drugstore toothbrushes.
Thanks for reading,
I’m interested in your plans for the “compostable” plastic brush heads. Will this be truly compostable, as in able to be composted in a backyard compost bin? Or will it be only commercially compostable? Many places do not have commercial compost facilities, and therefore those types of materials still end up in a landfill where they do not break down. Most of the so-called compostable plastics I have come across are of the second type, and are therefore not any better than regular plastic when it comes to disposal.
Great toothbrush…should put your name “GRIN” on it
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