Toothbrushes are one of the essential oral care item. With the covid pandemic, more people have become aware of oral hygiene thus creating a demand and increased production. It is a billion dollar industry. The grand view research states that the global manual toothbrush market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.9% from 2019 to 2026 reaching to about USD 7.54 billion, while the fortune business insights mentions it is projected to reach USD 8.24 billion by 2027,". The 60 Second Marketer website, states that around 3.5 billion toothbrushes are sold globally each year. The site also mentions that Americans spend around $2 billion annually on mouthwash, toothpaste, toothbrushes and floss.
With the production rate being so high annually, we are sure the discard rate would also be high, thus having a big share of contributing to the global pollution rate. Zero waste cartel states over 1 billion brushes are being thrown out each year - this caption on their website is very captivating, :- "it's concerning enough for us to politely nudge our friends and family to make a switch. We designed our bamboo toothbrush to have a fully compostable handle. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world". So true and we fully support this statement and expect the same from our blog readers. As of now the industry requires more research and development to make it 100% eco friendly. But whatever done so far is still good to show that we are heading in the right direction. We are not very far away from having toothbrushes that are 100% eco friendly and make it a zero waste commodity, as well as with a price that does not pinch a common man's pocket. Getting further on with the discarded plastic toothbrushes, they are all dumped in landfills and oceans which are posing a threat to birds and marine animals. They don't seem to know what these bright colored plastics are and choke themselves to death . As per the statistics U.S. alone discards over one billion toothbrushes each year. The American Dental Association suggests, that everyone replace their toothbrushes every three or four months. At that rate, brushes in the U.S. alone would go through over one billion toothbrushes each year. And if everyone around the world followed those recommendations, about 23 billion toothbrushes would get trashed annually. Most are traditional toothbrushes, but some 55 million U.S. brushers use electric toothbrushes each year, so some number of those plastic-handled, battery containing objects also end up in the waste stream each year. A research done by American researchers titled “Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made” states that 8,300 million metric tons(Mt) of virgin plastics had been produced by 2017 and “roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050”. Considering the world’s population of 7.9 billion people, that makes roughly 29.4 billion toothbrushes each year. On an average, a plastic toothbrush weighs around 20 g and so it can be calculated that the whole of humanity produces around 600 million kg of plastic toothbrush waste in a year. What many people do not know is that toothbrushes are not recyclable, since small parts get stuck in the machinery. That is why they end up in the landfill or oceans. A writer on national geographic aptly says, "because plastic is essentially indestructible, that means nearly every single toothbrush made since the 1930s is still out there in the world somewhere, living on as a piece of trash,”.
With the problems and statistics above-mentioned, some companies started manufacturing eco friendly toothbrushes. The big players too trying to be part of the eco friendly community. So many came up with the bamboo toothbrushes as the most sustainable and eco friendly. These toothbrushes have handles made of bamboo but bristles made of nylon. Some companies are also using organic materials such as beeswax to nourish the handle and give it a shiny sheen.
Few brands that are manufacturing bamboo toothbrushes are:-
•Brush With Bamboo -. They are bio based but not bio degradable. This means that the bristles contain 0% petroleum and is made of 100% castor bean oil- a plant based and renewable resource. The bristles, handle and the packaging all are plant based. The toothbrush lasts equivalent to a conventional plastic toothbrush.
•Brush Naked has made 100% biodegradable toothbrush with bristles made of corn and tapioca which is completely compostable but lasts for few days to couple of weeks. If someone want toothbrushes that are longer lasting then a bamboo toothbrush with nylon bristles is the only option. For those who support sustainability, before composting your toothbrush you need to pull out the bristles and throw it into a recyclable bin.
ARE BAMBOO TOOTHBRUSHES THE ONLY WAY TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY?
While we are discussing about sustainable toothbrushes its mostly at discarding stage but some can be dangerous even during the manufacturing process. Trinity college researchers at Dublin, in collaboration with Eastman Dental Institute at University College London, published a paper on this in the British Dental Journal on Tuesday, 15th September 2020. They mention that the healthcare sector is a major emitter of environmental pollutants that adversely affect health. They also did the research on 4 types of toothbrushes : plastic toothbrush with replaceable head, the standard plastic brush, the electric toothbrush, and the bamboo brush to see which one of these were sustainable. The team found that the electric toothbrush was comparatively harmful for planetary health and on the humans manufacturing it. The process also causes 10 hours of disability to the person manufacturing it. It is five times higher than that of a normal plastic brush.
Dr Brett Duane, Associate Professor in Public Dental Health at Trinity College and lead researcher mentions that there are billions of toothbrushes used and discarded every year. The research also showed that electric toothbrushes were very harmful to the planet and to those involved in the manufacturing process and distribution. He also said that it was derived that bamboo toothbrushes is not the answer. Bamboo toothbrushes will only help in not going to landfills and will in biodiversity or to offset carbon emissions in forests. He suggests as per the research the ideal toothbrush is one which uses plastic which is recyclable in a continuous process. He further goes on to explain that plastic brushes which can be recycled don't take up a lot of land and they don't need lots of water. The thing here is to see that the plastic is recycled. The toothbrushes have to be collected and then recycled into new products. If the recycling chain is broken then it needs to be easily and naturally broken down to make harmless products.
At the end of the research it was derived that bamboo toothbrush was not the most environmentally sustainable toothbrush , but a plastic toothbrush that can continuously be recycled, a plastic manual toothbrush with replaceable heads and bamboo manual toothbrush perform better than traditional plastic manual and electric toothbrushes .
RECYCLING YOUR TOOTHBRUSHES
Companies such as
•Boie recycles your old toothbrushes, you can send it back to them and with a stamp, through your local post.
•Terracycle recycles many products, you get credit points and various schemes are available. Their website also mentions that plastic items contribute to over 50 million pounds of annual landfill. To date, over 202 million people in 21 countries have helped to collect and recycle enough waste to raise over 44 million dollars for charities around the world. Really what an achievement!!!....Great work indeed. They are encouraging more people to join their programs, to start collecting at your location, download free shipping labels, and send them your waste to be recycled. Most free programs offer incentives for your favorite school or charity as a thank you for collecting and Eliminating the Idea of Waste®. Truly interesting programs, for those who would like to show your support and be a part, kindly look into their website for more details.
Now coming to the end of it. We have these options available:-If you are one of those who supports sustainability no matter what and willing to go with the chew stick like miswak, neem and guava, then the better option would be to grow the tree of your choice in your garden and use it fresh, than ordering it online.
The other option would be to to buy a biodegradable toothbrush such as bamboo brushes but if with nylon bristles, then pull out the bristles and then compost it if required.Buy a recyclable toothbrush with rechangeble heads or try to dispose it effectively .
There are many companies claiming to be manufacturing eco friendly toothbrushes which actually may not be so. We hence advice you'll to read and understand the details before purchasing them. Some maybe eco friendly but not the bristles. While disposing these toothbrushes one has to pull out the bristles or remove the head. Some users have found it very rough, bruising the cheek inners or maybe allergic. So though sustainability is what is on your mind and you would like to support it, but find it difficult for various reasons, then kindly do consult your dentist.