03.11.20

Bamboo Toothbrush: Is It Really Sustainable?

woman holding a toothbrush

In order to reduce plastic waste, most people are now switching to products that are made with sustainable materials like metal straws, eco shopping bags, and reusable coffee cups. And one of the most-used components in creating these eco-friendly items is bamboo.

Bamboo is proclaimed to be one of the most renewable materials in the world because it’s easy to utilize and it grows incredibly fast. It’s also considered a “miracle plant” because of its versatile properties and how it can help rebuild eroded soil.

Small businesses, and even big companies, are starting to use this material to manufacture sustainable items; and one of the most trending products being used today is the bamboo toothbrush.

Consumers are now aware that regular toothbrushes are part of the plastic pollution (one billion plastic toothbrushes are used and thrown away each year in the US alone!) -  that’s why they are trying to look for alternatives like bamboo toothbrushes. But the question is: are they the best sustainable option?


Are bamboo toothbrushes really eco-friendly?

bamboo toothbrushes in a glass toothbrush holder

Although the bamboo toothbrush is a promising alternative to the plastic variant, it is not the most logical choice. Did you know that China is still the only country that grows bamboo on a commercial scale?

Since they’re the leading bamboo supplier, shipping can also be a problem. A ship that transports bamboo to the United States uses more oil than it takes to supply a year’s worth of plastic bags in the USA alone. Petroleum products are known to be harmful to the environment and the highest amounts of black carbon particles are also produced by ships burning heavy fuel oil.

Farmers are starting to grow bamboo as a monocrop to meet the growing demands. But this agricultural practice reduces biodiversity; when one crop is planted repeatedly on the same land, soil can become nutrient deficient and susceptible to erosion.

The use of bamboo has raised concerns in the clothing industry as well - the UK’s Soil Association doesn't currently give certification to bamboo as an eco-friendly alternative. Spokeswoman Sarah Compson said:

"The production of bamboo would fall under our perennial crop standards so, in theory, we could certify the crop - but the problem is the processing. The process needed to break down the bamboo to make the fibers is very similar to that used to make viscose and we've yet to see a method that would come anywhere close to complying with our production standards.”

When it comes to toothbrushes, when you throw a bamboo toothbrush handle into your backyard garden it will actually take several years to fully decompose. But most of the time, bamboo toothbrushes still go to the trash just like the regular plastic variants and it will stay in the landfill for a number of years.

The use of compostable products like bamboo is on the rise but instead of helping us to cut down on plastic waste, these are filling up landfills and contaminating recycling plants, leaving many of them forced to shut down. 

 

Other sustainable toothbrush options

Radius toothbrush on top of the sink

Aside from bamboo, there are other toothbrush options that will help you jumpstart a sustainable lifestyle. You can go beyond and shop for toothbrushes that are sustainably-made using materials that will fully breakdown in landfills, unlike bamboo.

Here at RADIUS, we prioritize the use of bioplastics, which are produced without fossil fuels and derived from renewable biomass sources (like vegetable oils and timber) and agricultural byproducts. We know that there’s a big chance that toothbrushes will end up in the trash, that’s why we specifically design our products to decompose in landfills.

We also make sure that we’re helping our consumers reduce their plastic waste by offering products like the Big Brush, Source, and Tour brushes, which utilize a replacement head technology. When one toothbrush head is spent, just simply swap it for another without having to replace the entire brush, making it easier for consumers to make environmentally responsible choices. This cuts back on plastic usage and it can even save you money!

For our bristles, we opt to use eco-friendly vegetable-based nylon and omit natural bristles from our toothbrushes, as they’re typically harsher on the gums and break easily. Our toothbrush bristles are soft, long-lasting, and made from castor oil so they absorb very little moisture and have the ability to bounce back to their original shape after use. The replacement heads have 45 percent more bristles and it’s only 1/3 of the weight of the average bamboo toothbrush. Most of our products are also made in the USA which means there’s less fuel consumption because we don’t need to import products from China or any other country.

RADIUS always considers the end of our product’s life before we begin creating it. This is why we continue to explore more options to give our customers effective products that are at the same time safe for the environment.