Updated: Nov 7, 2021
Making the switch to a bamboo toothbrush is a fantastic - and simple - first step to reducing plastic waste. Traditional plastic toothbrushes are typically made from non-renewable fossil fuels that take hundreds of years to break down, meaning that every plastic toothbrush you've ever used still exists somewhere in some form (most likely sitting in landfill or washed out to sea). These virtually indestructible products never really disappear, rather they slowly break up into smaller pieces, contributing to the growing micro-plastics problem - the full extent and impact of which is yet to be realised.
On the other hand, bamboo toothbrushes have biodegradable and compostable handles that boast a whole host of additional benefits: a renewable resource, bamboo releases 30% more oxygen into the atmosphere compared to other trees; it’s the only plant that can keep up with human consumption (growing up to 3ft a day); it’s self-nourishing and requires no pesticides or chemicals to grow; and it has naturally antimicrobial properties that help kill bacteria.
Dentists recommend that you replace your toothbrush around every three months (or when the bristles become frayed), so when your brush reaches the end of its life, how can you keep your low waste streak going?
A sum of parts
Any mixed material item can pose a problem when recycling, so it's important to separate it into its different components to make sure everything is properly processed. Use pliers to pull out the toothbrush bristles. On most brushes, you'll find that these are held in place with aluminium pins, and these can be recycled with like metals. You could wrap the pins up in a piece of aluminium foil to make sure they stay together.
One of the most environmentally friendly ways to dispose of your bamboo handle is to compost it - either at home or at local composting facilities. If there is paint on the handle, check with the brand to see if this is compost-friendly. Our brushes have a water-based paint on the handle that can be composted. For more information on composting at home, visit this link.
This leaves you with the bristles. Many bamboo toothbrushes have nylon bristles, which can be recycled (although the logistics of ensuring that such small pieces of plastic find their way safely to a recycling plant is something to consider). Some toothbrush brands accept the used bristles back for recycling. Battle Green also offer this service.
Our toothbrushes have bio-based bristles - a renewable material made from castor oil that is free from BPA and mineral oils. This material can be industrially composted if you have access to this service (check with your local waste management centre). You are also welcome to send your used bristles back to us - or the complete used brush if you prefer - and we will pay a waste management company to recycle them. Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about this option.
Beyond recycling, another option for your used bamboo toothbrush is to upcycle it. We've shared some of our favourite ideas below.
Grubby tiles - A baking soda and warm water paste is an affordable and effective cleaning agent for a wide variety of surfaces, including bathroom tiles...and toothbrush heads are just the right size to reach the nooks and crannies between tiles than can harbour dirt and stains. A winning combination!
Clean your computer keyboard - Dust and grime can gravitate to those awkward, narrow spaces between your keyboard keys. However, toothbrush bristles are just the right size and consistency to flick away stubborn grot with a few gentle swipes.
Scrub your fingernails - You don't need a special nail brush to clean away dirt that can get trapped under your fingernails. A used toothbrush can do the job just as well, just add a little soap to the bristles and get to work!
Removing stains - If you have any lingering stains on your upholstery, trainers or clothing, a used toothbrush is a perfect tool for working in your stain remover of choice and making sure your items emerge from the wash sparkling like new.
Dusting blinds - The slats on Venetian blinds have a tendency to attract dust, and they're also really flippin' awkward to reach! The tapered handle and neat bristles on your bamboo toothbrush will glide between them with ease and lift away dirt.
Do you have any other tips for upcycling or successfully recycling used bamboo toothbrushes? Please share them below!