Biodegradable Toothbrushes: Making the Switch and Ditching the Plastic

Hello all! Happy first of July!

This month is plastic free July, and to celebrate this fab month I’m kicking off with a review of our favourite plastic free toothbrushes and toothpastes, as well as a bit of background about the plastics that are thrown away every year and end up in our landfills and oceans.

This article was also inspired by the recent Babi Pur Beach clean headed by Jolene and Peter Barton with the Babipur team to go out and clean their local beaches in North Wales, where I also live. This beach clean was fantastic as so many different plastics wash up on our shores every year and pollute our wildlife and oceans- plastics that include discarded toothbrushes and other dental hygiene containers, which is why I think this article is an important one.

Plastic is so common today that it’s used for so many things we use in our everyday lives. It’s in our hygiene products: nappies, sanitary towels, toothbrushes; all of which are also stored and contained in plastic packaging. It’s used for dinnerware, food storage, bottles and straws; it wraps our fresh food – fruit, veg, meats and fish. It’s the main storage solution for most perishable and non- perishable goods found in our supermarkets. It makes up fabrics, toys, home wear, and much much more. Plastic. is. everywhere.

I understand that many plastics today are recyclable, or at least part recyclable, and I also understand that in some ways they do serve a purpose- I myself have many plastic items (though I try to limit what I use.

That isn’t to say that when I walk into a supermarket and go to pick up a broccoli or a pack of peaches (which are wrapped in plastic packaging), I get just a tad peeved and think to myself “is this really necessary?). It’s one thing to keep products safe and free from pests as they’re being transported from their place of manufacture to the supermarket; but is all that plastic really necessary? After one shopping trip my recycling box is full of various plastic wrappers from all of the fruits and veg I buy, (and since I don’t eat meat or dairy I get through rather a lot of veg!) Even if you decide to buy loose fruit and veg, the bags offered are plastic- there is no escape from it. And ever week after a food shop as I strip my food from their packaging and put them away I always say the same thing : “what a waste”.

And it is a waste. Personally I think that plastic is used too much, it’s overused. There are some things that you just think “there has to be a more sensible alternative.” And where does all that plastic go when you’re done with it? Some is recycled, sure; but a lot cannot be recycled and so it more often than none ends up in our landfills and oceans. On their website Friends of the Earth estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. That’s a scary thought, and given that plastic can take up to 1000 years to decompose; it really is something that should be addressed. And soon.

What I do find is utterly fantastic though, is that more and more awareness is being raised, and more and more people are switching to eco-friendly alternatives. And because more people are wanting to make the change, their is more call for eco-friendly products to be made- meaning we now have more choice than ever when it comes to switching to greener, safer alternatives.

In previous articles I’ve written about various plastic- based products on the market, and how to switch to safer alternatives. These include items such as nappies, women’s sanitary and menstrual products, and food storage solutions. Today it’s all about the toothbrushes.

According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition
“The average life expectancy is about 75 years
Each of us will replace 300 toothbrushes during our lifetime (4 toothbrushes per year)
A single conventional toothbrush weighs approximately 18 grams (.63 oz.)
Each of us will throw away about 12 pounds of plastic toothbrushes in our lifetime
There are 6.8 billion people on the planet
Plastic toothbrush waste generated during our lifetime = 80 billion pounds”. 

Al and I were shocked when we read this, but i’ts kinda hard to relate to this as it’s based worldwide. So we did some calculations of our own using statistics from the ons:

According to the 2016 UK census the UK population stands at 65.64 million. The average life expectancy for people in the UK is 81.6 years.

If the average person in the UK were to replace their toothbrush 4 times a year (as is recommended), then that times the UK population equates to 262.56 million toothbrushes that are thrown away each year.

Let’s go with the Plastic Pollution Coalition’s estimate that the average toothbrush weighs around 18 grams, multiply that by the amount of toothbrushes thrown away each year; and that will mean that based on these calculations 4.7 million kg of toothbrushes are thrown away each year (that’s 4,700 tonnes)! And times that by the average life expectancy. Crazy.

Now, before anyone says anything- we were basing this calculation as a ballpark figure, on the basis that each person uses 4 toothbrushes a year, and that everyone uses plastic toothbrushes. We understand that many people in the UK don’t get through the recommended 4 toothbrushes a year, and not everyone uses plastic toothbrushes. This was just to put it into perspective the amount of plastic that can build up from one year’s use. Even if you half the figure we estimated, it’s still pretty shocking. This doesn’t even take into account removable heads for electric toothbrushes.

Regardless of how many plastic toothbrushes people actually use per year in the UK or worldwide; the plastic waste build up that is actually produced worldwide is big, it is scary, and it is massively shocking.

In doing my research for this article I came across a really cool article on the Guardian’s website: “The house that 20,000 toothbrushes built“. In reading it I learned that a professor at a Brighton University and his students used salvaged waste items to build an entire (furnished) house using old carpet tiles, toothbrushes, old thrown out plasterboard and even video tapes: “Duncan Baker-Brown said “It’s a depressing fact that for every five houses we build in the UK, the equivalent of one house in waste materials gets put into a landfill.” 

All the video rental shops seemed to be closing down while we were on site,” he explains. “So we took all the DVD cases and VHS tapes to use as insulation.” The 20,000 toothbrushes, meanwhile, came from a company that cleans planes after long-haul flights. This represents the harvest of just four days, which would otherwise end up in landfill, or the sea, joining the islands of plastic that are swirling around our oceans, some the size of Texas.”

I love what this guy has done- hes made a point of collecting rubbish and saving it from a landfill (only four days worth of rubbish and look at what it can make!) and built and entire house. It brings it painfully close to home just how wasteful we are becoming.

And this is why now more than ever it’s so important to try and make little changes. Someone once said to me “well it’s never going to be enough because a few people have changed”. I think that’s such a sad way to look at it- one person can make a difference.  One person makes a change and then that rubs off on a friend or family member, who then influences someone else etc etc. Every person can make a change. One small act a day- and I genuinely believe that. Sooner or later drastic measures will have to be taken to clean up the mess that’s accumulating, people will have to change eventually; so why not let it start with you?

As it’s now July, it’s an opportunity to try out reducing your waste and taking part in Plastic Free July- even if you just do something small- like replace your plastic toothbrush with a biodegradable one. I made the swap last year, after I watched a rather scary documentary about the dangers of plastics on the human health, and some of the things that are added into toothbrushes and other hygiene self care products. Since then, both of my little boys (4 and 2) have been switched on to bamboo toothbrushes. Even Al has been converted! I haven’t looked back since the change, in fact my teeth feel cleaner and I feel happy knowing I’ve cut another wasteful product from our home.

After trying a few different brands of green toothbrushes, I decided my favourite brand is Hydrophil. I’ve tried other brands too which are fab, but this has to be my favourite brand as the heads are a decent size, the handles sit comfortably in your hand when brushing, and they are also very pretty brushes ( I know that’s not the most important point, but even so.) I have to admit- my teeth have never felt cleaner since switching to bamboo toothbrushes, I find them way more pleasant to use on the whole; and my children’s teeth are lovely and clean too. I use the Hydrophil medium bamboo adult toothbrush for myself and Jacob has the Hydrophil kid’s bamboo toothbrush, while Al uses another brand from our local Health shop; and for Nic I use the Jac N Jill Bio toothbrush which is made from GMO free corn starch! I think that’s so cool! Best of all I know there are no unwanted chemicals and other nasties that are in the plastics of toothbrushes going into mine or my family’s mouths. And no guilt when disposing of them 🙂 Win.

I love plastic free alternative toothbrushes because they are highly sustainable, made from excellent biodegradable materials, and don’t contain any nasties like many plastics do. I love the Hydrophil and Jac N Jill toothbrushes because their bristles are made from BPA free plastics too. They really are a great alternative solution.

If you’re looking to go one step further into ditching the plastic then why not try some safer, more natural and plastic free alternatives to toothpaste? Babipur  has many different alternative dental care solutions, including mouthwash, dental floss, toothbrushes, as well as different toothpastes. One brand in particular I though was pretty cool is the Lamazuna solid toothpaste, which comes in peppermint flavour, sage and lemon, or cinnamon.  Personally I like the look of the peppermint one, but whatever flavour you go for the cool thing about this solid toothpaste is it can last as long as two regular tubes of toothpaste, is made from 100% natural ingredients; and is vegan too!

With all of these fantastic alternative, greener products out there it’s never been easier to make the switch and reduce your plastic waste. In making the switch you know that you are improving your health and helping our environment

But anyway, regardless of everything that I’ve written here- all I can say, is don’t just take someone else’s word for an answer. Don’t take my word for an answer. Go out and do the research yourself, read peer reviewed studies online, look at statistics; read the ingredients of the things you buy and find out what they are. Don’t just settle, educate yourself and be healthier- many of these companies (in my opinion) who manufacture a lot of the products on our shelves, fill them with all kinds of crap and sell them because they know the vast majority of consumers don’t think to look what’s in the things they buy. These people make millions of the back’s of people’s naivety/ ignorance; and ultimately their health. So go out and do your research, make better choices- it can’t hurt right?

*Disclaimer*

I think it’s important to say (as sometimes I do tend to get a bit ‘passionate’ when writing some of these articles, that I’m not some hard core activist who refuses to use any plastic at all and demonise the people who do. I don’t criticise others for what they use. I do, however; try to be mindful of what I use and try to limit as much as I can because it means something to me- and if I can share that information with like-minded people along the way then great.

I can only assume that those of you who read my blog share similar views to me, or are looking to change-which is wonderful! Or maybe your’e just curious. But whatever the reason, It must be said that the views I express in my blog are my thoughts and opinions, this isn’t a witch hunt and in no way am I criticising anyone who lives differently or has different beliefs.

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