Buying a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush means there is one less plastic toothbrush floating around in the ocean or clogging up land fill, but they still need to be disposed of or composted properly for maximum environmental friendliness.
Happily this is really easy to do and takes no time at all. This guide will show you how to dispose of your toothbrush properly, to ensure it breaks down and returns to the earth as quickly as possible.
A step-by-step guide to dispose of a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush
A shiny fresh toothbrush is much better at keeping your teeth shiny and minty-fresh too, so it's important to replace your toothbrush regularly.
While we've tested our toothbrushes to make sure they last up to six months of use, dentist advise is to change your toothbrush every two months (which is why our Year's Supply packs contain six brushes). It doesn't matter whether you use a bamboo toothbrush or a plastic one - the bristles get worn down and bacteria can build up all the same, even though the bamboo handle is naturally antibacterial.
When you replace your toothbrush, it's important to dispose of your old one properly. Here's how!
Step 1: Upcycle and Re-use Your Toothbrush
You know the mantra: reduce, re-use, recycle. Once your toothbrush has served its principal purpose of cleaning your teeth, there are lots of ways you can squeeze a bit more life and use out of it. Just boil it in hot water for a few minutes first to sanitise it, and mark it in some way so you know it's not to be used on teeth!
- Clean your bathroom with it. An old toothbrush is the perfect size and shape to reach all those hard to reach spots, like in the corners of the counter top, between tiles, inside plug holes, or even inside the toilet.
- Maintain electrical items. An old (dry!) toothbrush is the perfect tool to clean out dust from between the keys on your computer keyboard, or to remove debris from the vents on a hairdryer or filter on a vacuum cleaner.
- Clean cooking implements. Ever got annoyed at all the garlic pulp stubbornly clinging to the inside of your garlic crusher, bits of cheese caught up in your cheese grater, or bits of 'stuff' clogging your sieve? Keep an old toothbrush by your sink - it's the perfect tool to clean them out.
- Scrub sports equipment. Got mud caught between the studs on your football/rugby boots, or a dirty bike chain? Yep, an old toothbrush is ideal to scrub them clean again.
- Make garden markers. Want a way to tell your peppers from your tomatoes and your carrots from your potatoes, without using plastic? Just write the name of each plant on an old bamboo toothbrush and push it into the soil as a handy reminder.
Step 2: Remove the Bristles
While our bristles are recyclable, they are also the one part of a bamboo toothbrush that isn't biodegradable (we are talking less than a gram of material here, compared to a whole plastic toothbrush).
Oral health and effective teeth cleaning is our no.1 priority, and as yet no biodegradable fibre exists that does it as well and for as long as the industry standard nylon-6 bristles we use (apart from pig hair, which we won't use, and which has its own set of environmental and ethical implications).
This means you have to remove the bristles and dispose of them separately from the toothbrush handle. There are two different methods to remove them:
- Pull them out with pliers (our favoured method)
- Snap the whole toothbrush head off
The easiest way is to pull them out with pliers. To make it as easy as possible, don't try to pull out too many bristles in one go, and use a slight rolling action. This will pull the bristles and the little metal staples out smoothly and cleanly.
The bristles can then go into your plastic recycling, but as they are so small and easily lost, we recommend first putting them inside another plastic item you are recycling, like food packaging, a bottle or carton, etc.
If you've managed to reduce your plastic consumption to the point you rarely have any suitable containers to get rid off, consider either keeping a dedicated one until it is full up, or popping the bristles in something you find on your next litter pick. In extremis, you can dip them in a blob of glue to keep them all together.
Step 3: Compost the Bamboo Toothbrush Handle
The handle of your toothbrush is 100% biodegradable, but you still need to think about how you dispose of it to make sure it breaks down as quickly as possible.
We recommend putting it in your bio-waste bin to be disposed of in an industrial composter, where it will break down in a few weeks, but you can also put it in a home composter if you have one. Even if you just throw it into your normal rubbish and the toothbrush ends up in landfill, it will still biodegrade in a few years.
Bamboo will break down entirely in time, but it's a robust and rot-resistant material (which is why it's so great to make toothbrushes from). How long it takes to biodegrade depends on the conditions: in or on the soil, warm and wet, or dry and cold.
How long does it take a bamboo toothbrush to biodegrade?
- If you just throw a bamboo toothbrush into your garden, it might take as long as 5-10 years to fully break down.
- Buried horizontally in the soil, it will take around 3 years
- A home composter should take around 4-6 months (depends on composition). You can speed this up by breaking the toothbrush down into small pieces with a hammer or saw.
- An industrial composter should break a toothbrush down in a few weeks (they are much hotter and more active than any home composter).
Re-cap: how to dispose of your bamboo toothbrush properly
- Re-use or up-cycle the toothbrush
- Pull the bristles out with pliers and recycle
- Throw the bamboo handle in the bio-waste bin
Got any questions, or tips on how else to re-use or better compost a bamboo toothbrush? Let us know in the comments below!