Can You See Me Smiling?

This year I’ve embarked on a low-plastic waste challenge for my family. Every fortnight I’ll be posting a low-plastic WIN that I’ve had in Alice Springs. Please email me at Rachel.oleary@alec.org.au if you have any good ideas you’d like to share!

Solution: Can you see me smiling?

Humans have been using chew sticks to clean our teeth for thousands of years. The bristle toothbrush was invented in China in 1498 and consisted of a bone or bamboo handle and boar bristles[1]. Almost 80 years ago nylon bristles were introduced by Du Pont and the rest, as they say, is history1.

As we know, plastic takes a long time to break down, and never safely biodegrade. Fortunately, the tide is slowly turning. There is now a range of bamboo-handled toothbrushes on the market. I have used them for a few years now and have found them to be comparable in quality to their plastic counterparts.

One minor challenge is that a collection of bamboo toothbrushes in one pot are easy to mix up. We’ve solved this by personalising our toothbrushes by writing our names on the handle, and the kids have loved this.

The issue of eco-bristles is still challenging for eco toothbrush manufacturers. One Australian brand, “The Environmental Toothbrush” explains that it hasn’t solved the bristle dilemma, as it’s bristles are still made from plastic. They suggest composting the handle, and binning or recycling the bristles. Hopefully, someone will invent biodegradable bristles soon, but until then, ensuring the handle and head of the toothbrush are biodegradable is a great start.

With 24 million of us living here in Australia[2], and assuming we change our toothbrushes at the minimum twice a year, we are sending at least 40 million toothbrushes per year to landfill. Moving to a more sustainable option is definitely a win for our planet.



[1] https://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/tooth.html

[2] http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/0/1647509ef7e25faaca2568a900154b63

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