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Creating a sustainable toothbrush

Happy People Brushing their teeth

Everyday most people share the same ritual. They get out of bed, jump into the shower and then reach for a stick of polypropylene tipped with nylon-6 bristles. This of course is your toothbrush but most people forget about it after the ritual is done (unless you're a dentist!). That is, until now. 

People are becoming more and more aware of the plastic debt they are accruing to the world. This debt will not be paid back for centuries as most plastics take that long to return to the Earth, if they do at all. People are changing their attitude though, of course they are or you wouldn't be here! First, plastic bags were phased out, it's been successful and we've seen a drastic reduction in their use. 

The next on the hit list I would suggest is the humble toothbrush. Why? Because it's so simple and cost-effective to replace.

What can we do?

A toothbrush is composed of three main parts:

  • Packaging
  • Handle
  • Bristles

Packaging

We can reduce our plastic debt with the packaging by simply making do with a recycled cardboard box. We don't need a see through window to look at our toothbrush, we should all know what they look like. Alternatively, there's some snazzy bamboo cases on the market! Quite pricey though.

Handle

This one is simple but can be resolved in two ways. The first is what we promote here: a bamboo toothbrush. We simply replace the polypropylene handle with panda friendly bamboo wood. Bamboo grows exceptionally fast in various climates. It's much more sustainable than chopping down an old red wood and it's strong.

Alternatively another option is wheat grass. These are great in a pinch but they tend to be quite fragile. They biodegrade excellently though. 

Also, there are handles made from corn starch. Corn starch is often used as a bioplastic to replace modern polymers. Currently this is quite expensive for the mass market but we're keeping an eye out for them.

Bristles 

Normally the bristles of a toothbrush are composed of nylon. Specifically Nylon-6 which unfortunately is not biodegradable by any normal natural process. We can resolve this with these alternatives and one might surprise you:

Straw

This can be used however it's tough and rough on the gums. Also it doesn't wear well and you'll be replacing the brush quite often.

Castor oil

This material can also be used. It is usually mixed with an artificial polymer to give it some strength but it is a great compromise. It's still not fully biodegradable. This material is called Nylon-11, read more about it here.

Nylon-4

This is a different type of nylon that has been created specifically to biodegrade. It's inexpensive and preforms just as well as it's longer living counterparts. Studies have shown [1] that it takes around 25 days to biodegrade in a marine environment, which is excellent.

How we chose our ingredients

Bamboo Toothbrush

Given the above information we based our decision to create a bamboo toothbrush with cardboard packaging and nylon-4 bristles. In the future we might look towards using castor oil bristles, but our aim is to make it easy for people to reduce their plastic debt without getting into too much financial debt. Creating an inexpensive alternative is, in our opinion a great thing.

If you're interested in taking a look at our bamboo toothbrush then please checkout out shop.

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0141391013001420

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