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More sustainable – Bamboo or Plastic Toothbrush?

Posted by Simon Cooper on


The word is spreading about how bad plastic waste is for the planet.

We believe companies should be responsible for the products they put into the world, from design to disposal (known as cradle to cradle design).

And while plastic straws are getting a lot of negative attention these days, there are a ton of other plastic, disposable items that should be redesigned for sustainability. Like the common toothbrush.

Here's a startling fact:

Over 3 billion toothbrushes are disposed of every year. That’s over 165 million pounds of plastic, or, the weight of more than 5500 school buses. No bueno.

Almost every plastic toothbrush ever produced is still somewhere on the planet. This isn't sustainable and was the main reason we started Grin toothbrush.

Thankfully, new, more sustainable oral care alternatives like Grin and bamboo toothbrushes are starting to gain popularity.

But what's the difference and how do they compare? In this post we look at the sustainability difference between drugstore, bamboo and Grin toothbrushes.


Toothbrush Material Breakdown

 Toothbrush

Drugstore

Bamboo

Grin

Handle Material

Plastic Bamboo Aluminum
Discard handle? Yes Yes No
Brush Head Material
Plastic
Bamboo
Plastic*

Plastic Quantity

~25 grams
Bristles
4 grams

Bristle Material

Nylon Nylon Nylon

*We are currently working with our manufacturer to make our brush heads out of biodegradable plastic. These will be available soon.

Article continues below photo.

Photo of Grin toothbrush with a bamboo and drugstore toothbrush

1 – Sustainability

Plastic drugstore toothbrushes

Typical plastic toothbrushes went into production in 1938 and have been popular ever since. (More toothbrush history right this way.) 

There's not a lot to say about these toothbrushes—they score rock-bottom on sustainability because once disposed of, they take centuries to decompose (if ever at all).

We're biased, but it's worth pointing out that the companies that make these toothbrushes seem to have no interest in reducing their environmental impact.

We also point out in this blog post that they aren't very well designed.

Grin toothbrush 

Grin uses an aluminum handle and plastic brush head. 

Aluminum is the most recyclable of all materials. Our handle is lightweight, durable and designed to last for life. This fact alone will divert massive amounts of material from landfill (and recycling, which isn't ideal. Reuse, then reduce…).

The colour finish is attained using a process called 'anodizing', which is an electrochemical process that converts the metal surface into a colourful, durable, corrosion-resistant finish. Basically, the colour is bonded to the metal surface as opposed to being a paint or powder coating. 

Our brush heads are made of PA plastic, which is recyclable if you remove the bristles using pliers. As mentioned above, we are currently working on version 2.0 which will be made using a compostable plastic. We can't wait!

Grin toothbrush heads weigh 4 grams, compared to ~25 grams for a typical drugstore toothbrush. That means that 6 Grin toothbrush heads are equivalent to 1 drugstore toothbrush, or, using Grin for a year and a half (1 brush head every 3 months) is equal to using just 1 drugstore toothbrush.

Our packaging is made of paper and uses the absolute minimum required. 

Bamboo toothbrushes 

Bamboo toothbrush handles are made using fast-growing, renewable bamboo (which is actually a grass). The handles are compostable, which is good. Some have painted handles which reduces the environmental benefits.

In most cases, however, the bristles are made of Nylon, which is NOT compostable or biodegradable. This is a common misconception. Some bamboo toothbrush sellers refer to their products as "all natural" or "biodegradable" when in fact only the handle is. The bristles must be removed before disposable.

There are a few completely compostable bamboo toothbrushes available such as this model which uses natural pig hair bristles. These models use bristles made of corn and tapioca, but come with a warning around durability and stiffness (your dentist might not love them).

Packaging differs from product to product but many use paper which is good.

Price and Performance

There is too much variety for us to price every toothbrush on the market, but quick research reveals:

  • good quality drugstore toothbrushes cost between $4 and $9 each
  • bamboo toothbrushes cost between $4.50 and $10 each
  • Grin brush heads costs $3.75 each

In terms of performance, bamboo has a unique 'mouthfeel' due to the wood texture. They also dry more slowly and should be stored in a way to minimize contact with germs.

As always, there are pros and cons with the choice of materials. If you're looking for an eco friendly toothbrush, we strongly suggest Grin or Bamboo over drugstore toothbrushes.

Thanks for reading and grin on!

– Simon Cooper

 

Note: This is by no means a scientific study. Kindly send ideas, input or feedback to hello@grintoothbrush.com.

 

John Skirving

October 21, 2018

Great toothbrush…should put your name “GRIN” on it

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