Reduce dental waste by supporting companies that prioritize compostability, recycling, and innovative materials.
Our teeth are such a small part of our bodies, and yet, if kept clean, they generate obscene amounts of waste. Dentists recommend replacing toothbrushes every three months, which adds up to millions of pounds of non-recyclable plastic going straight into landfills each year. Neglecting one’s teeth is obviously not an option, so what is a environmentally conscious, zero-waste aspirant supposed to do? It is impossible to stop brushing one’s teeth (if you hope to function normally within society), but there are some ways to reduce the impact by buying a better toothbrush.
Buy a plastic toothbrush made from recycled materials.
Preserve toothbrushes are made from yogurt containers and used ones can be sent back to the company for repurposing and a $1 voucher per brush sent. Bristles are made from new plastic.
Buy a biodegradable toothbrush.
Brush With Bamboo toothbrushes have an organic wild bamboo handle and bristles made from 62% castor bean oil and 38% nylon. The bristles would have to be ripped out before handle can be composted. Brushes come in a paper box. Free shipping in USA, or if you’re in Canada, buy from Life Without Plastic. Children’s brushes are also available.
Bogobrush is a US company that makes its brushes from compostable bioplastic. They are made in Detroit, packaged in paper, and have a buy one-give one policy that distributes toothbrushes to people in need. The Bogobrush was originally supposed to have a bamboo handle, but the designers nixed that plan when they realized how much product is lost in shipping and that they’d need an offshore supplier. They preferred to keep it local, using leftover plant material from American farms.
Radius makes funky-looking toothbrushes from cellulose (plastic generated from wood) and vegetable-based nylon bristles, meaning that they’re entirely free from petroleum. The Source model has a removable head and a handle made of “repurposed and recycled materials — like wood, paper and even recycled dollar bills — for a beautiful, natural look and feel.” However, I've heard that they come packaged in plastic blister packs, which is annoying.
Buy an aluminum toothbrush.
The Goodwell Company makes a recycled aluminum toothbrush with replaceable heads that is guaranteed for life. By subscribing, you will receive replacement heads in the mail every two months for $5.99. Alternatively, you can purchase their sustainably harvested bamboo toothbrush with binchotan charcoal-infused bristles. The charcoal balance the pH in your mouth and fights bad breath.
Need an electric toothbrush?
If you need an electric toothbrush, then check out the ISSA.The biggest difference is that it requires only a one-hour charge every 6 months; in other words, you can get 365 brushes out of a single charge. The entire toothbrush is made of silicone (petroleum-free, although still questionable when it comes to safety), but the head only needs to be replaced once a year.
Buy a wooden toothbrush.
Sold by one of my favorite Canadian companies, Life Without Plastic, this is a toothbrush that you can toss in the campfire when you’re done with it. The handle is made from beechwood, rubbed with linseed oil, and the bristles are pig hair.
“The German manufacturer obtains the pig hair from China, which is currently the only place in the world from where these long-haired pig bristles can be sourced. The bristles come from a domesticated race of long-haired pig that is bred and raised for meat. When the animals are harvested for the meat, the skin and bristles are normally discarded because the meat industry has no use for them. Here the bristles are being used for a positive purpose, rather than simply being thrown out as waste.”
None of the options is perfect, but small changes can add up to a big difference over the long-term. Consider these when it comes time to replace your next toothbrush, instead of running out to the drugstore for a non-recycled, non-recyclable, non-biodegradable plastic toothbrush that will linger a thousand years on Earth.