Oral care is something that is essential to every human being. Whether you’re someone who’s living in an apartment downtown or a businessman living on the high street, brushing teeth is essential. Most toothbrushes today are made from plastic, and with the number of toothbrushes being thrown out every day, you can easily see the problem. Here we will discuss the 5 reasons why you need an eco friendly toothbrush.
History of the plastic toothbrush
Since the first toothbrush being made in the 1930s, billions of toothbrushes have been used every single year. These brushes are made from flexible, non-recyclable plastic due to the cheap acquisition of raw material and manufacturing costs. In recent years, the American Dental Association has advised the community to replace their toothbrushes every three months. The statement made by ADA has helped manufacturers push to produce an even greater number of toothbrushes to cater to the increasing demand.
The increase in demand for plastic toothbrushes has resulted in a major problem that is pretty obvious, but it has also raised a few issues that we would have not noticed. Here are just a few reasons why you need an eco friendly toothbrush instead of a plastic one.
1. Plastic toothbrushes fill up landfills
Plastic is the most widely used material in the world, and although a single toothbrush may be insignificant in causing damage to the environment, there are billions of them being used every year, which adds up fast.
With the recent statement by the ADA on the replacement of toothbrushes every few months, an average American would use about 3 to 4 brushes every year. That’s over a billion toothbrushes consumed in the US alone, and we haven’t even talked about the amount being manufactured.
Plastic is cheap to produce, therefore manufacturers use this to cut costs and reduce the sale price of toothbrushes as well as increase the production quantity in a highly competitive market. Consequently, with every toothbrush being manufactured, the companies are adding to the tons of plastic already being wasted in the landfills.
2. The plastic is drenched in toxic chemicals
One of the primary materials that give plastic toothbrushes their unique texture and flexibility is the addition of chemicals during manufacturing. These chemicals help create a rigid structure that can be molded into a toothbrush. Any type of plastic when burned releases a number of dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere but the plastic toothbrush takes it to the next level.
When incinerated, the plastic toothbrushes initially resist the flames but then quickly catch fire, releasing harmful toxins that are potentially fatal to breathe. The chemicals within the toothbrush are in such high concentration that even the flame appears to shift colors when burning. Using an eco friendly toothbrush instead would help replace the plastic with a more sustainable alternative that, even if incinerated, would not release these toxins into the atmosphere.
3. Plastic toothbrushes are non-recyclable
If there’s one thing worse than using plastic it’s using plastic that is non-recyclable. In order to create the flexibility and structure required to manufacture a toothbrush, the plastic used by companies to build toothbrushes is either polyethylene or polypropylene. Although recycling both these types of plastics is technically possible (Check out my guide on plastics you can recycle), the chemicals added during the manufacturing process render the plastic unrecyclable.
This means every time you’re done with using the toothbrush, it has nowhere left to go except the landfill, where it will continue to photodegrade for several years unless incinerated (which itself will cause problems). In fact, it is possible that a toothbrush that may have been used during the 1930s still exists somewhere in the landfills or buried underground, and will probably outlive you and your children as well!
4. Plastic toothbrushes pollute the water
This is a strange one; we do know that plastic bags are the primary pollutants in the ocean, but what we don’t know is that plastic toothbrushes aren’t far behind, which is exactly why you need an eco friendly toothbrush.
Plastic toothbrushes are not recyclable and cannot be safely incinerated, and with billions of them being used in the world, many of them don’t end up in landfills but in the waterways instead. Apart from polluting the water by photodegrading, these toothbrushes are often mistakenly consumed by marine life and birds who then choke and die after having their throat blocked by the brush.
5. Plastic toothbrushes increase the demand for crude oil
As conventional toothbrushes are made from plastic, and billions of them are produced each year, the demand for crude oil to make toothbrushes has gone exceptionally high over the past few decades. Crude oil is a form of fossil fuel, which is non-renewable and a hazard for the planet. Due to the increased demand for plastic toothbrushes, not only is this promoting the extraction of a hazardous substance, but also a resource that is depleting exponentially.
In order to reduce the demand for petroleum to make plastic toothbrushes, switching to an eco friendly toothbrush is the best option we have. If we can reduce the amount of plastic toothbrushes by only a million per year, it could potentially reduce the demand for thousands of gallons of crude oil.
What is an eco friendly toothbrush anyway?
Truth be told, there is no alternative for a plastic toothbrush that can be considered 100% environmentally friendly, but there is a material that is used to build a toothbrush that is far more sustainable than your conventional toothbrush; bamboo.
Bamboo is a sustainable alternative that is one of the most eco friendly materials on the entire planet. From something as delicate as toilet paper to something as rigid as the roof of a house, bamboo’s versatility is famous around the world. Bamboo is fully biodegradable and in most cases also compostable, giving it a minimal carbon footprint.
One of the traits that make bamboo a perfect ingredient for making eco friendly toothbrushes are its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Bamboo has natural antibacterial and antimicrobial chemicals that help keep it sterile for a long period. Since your mouth is one of the most susceptible parts of the body to an infection, bamboo will help prevent any bacteria or fungal traces from entering your mouth during brushing.
But what about the cost?
Turns out bamboo-based toothbrushes aren’t expensive at all! With the increased popularity of bamboo and mass production in recent years, manufacturers have been able to reduce the costs thereby reducing the sale price as well.
So why not 100% sustainable?
But if bamboo is so eco friendly, why aren’t the toothbrushes made from bamboo also 100% sustainable? The problem lies in the fibers, as they still have to be made from nylon. Nylon is a non-biodegradable, non-recyclable material, and since the fibers are made from nylon, the toothbrush is no longer completely environmentally friendly.
So exactly how sustainable is it?
However, that does not mean the toothbrush isn’t eco friendly at all; replacing the plastic handle removes a lot of problems that we associate with plastic toothbrushes, and there would also be a time in the near future when we will have sustainable fiber, making the toothbrushes completely sustainable.
Eco friendly toothbrushes are a small but necessary step towards a greener future. With the reduction of plastic toothbrushes, we can hope for lower plastic pollution on land and sea, as well as a reduction in the demand for one of the most deadly substances on the planet; fossil fuels.