When we think about our oral care routine it may be easy to feel there is little connection between how we care for our mouths and how we care for the environment - but this simply isn’t true.
In an average American lifespan (75 years), a person will throw away 300 standard toothbrushes.
To look at it another way - a single standard toothbrush weighs about 0.63oz, each of us will throw away around 12 pounds of standard plastic toothbrushes in our lifetime.
Let’s think about that figure on a global scale - there are 7.6 billion people in the world, collectively we will generate 91 billion pounds of plastic toothbrush waste in our lifetimes.
A standard toothbrush is made of nylon bristles and a hard plastic handle and usually is sold in a plastic package. While the advancement of the toothbrush design to its current form has been great for aiding more thorough teeth cleaning, the materials they are now made from cannot be properly recycled. These petroleum products do not biodegrade, if incinerated they release toxic chemicals into the environment and suck up valuable fossil fuels.
These facts certainly make us look at our humble toothbrush in a different light.
Brushing our teeth daily though is the best way to fight against tooth decay and oral disease. Fortunately, we don't have to choose between the health of the planet and the health of your mouth. With just a few environmentally friendly changes to our oral care routine, we hold the power to positively impact the environment, while still maintaining beautifully shiny teeth.
Let’s now look at how we can make simple changes to our oral care routine to help lower waste, and make that first step into a more conscious, zero-waste kinda life.
# 1 - Your Toothbrush:
There are a lot of options out there for recyclable toothbrushes. The most environmentally friendly is the bamboo toothbrush. This toothbrush is made from bamboo which is a biodegradable material and is quickly becoming a renewable resource. The bristles are BPA free, and while not biodegradable they can be recycled.
We have come to love Brush with Bamboo, even the packaging is biodegradable. They also have a fantastic short-video about the life of a toothbrush, which is definitely worth a watch.
#2 - Your Toothpaste Tube:
Homemade toothpaste is surprisingly easy, cost savvy and more importantly, it means you can reuse the container you made it in - no more throwing out toothpaste tubes. Here is a great toothpaste recipe from DIY Natural. The recipe is made up of 3 ingredients and takes just a few seconds to make.
If making homemade toothpaste is a little bit daunting then opt to buy toothpaste that is packaged in recyclable containers such as glass jars.
# 3 - Your Dental Floss:
Traditional dental floss containers are rarely recyclable or recycled. The floss itself is sometimes coated with a chemical contaminant that helps it glide through gums more easily but means the floss cannot be recycled.
If flossing is too big a thing to give up, then when it is time to buy a new reel, try refillable dental floss made of 100% mulberry silk. We like the ones from Package Free. They are made from mulberry silk floss and coated in vegan candelilla wax.
# 4 - Your Mouthwash:
Much like toothpaste tubes, we can reduce plastic wastage by making our own mouthwash. It’s super easy and leaves you feeling pretty stoked at yourself for making your own environmentally friendly, AND very effective mouthwash.
Again, the recipe from DIY Natural is great - it’s just 3 ingredients, it can be made with your eyes closed, and it won’t burn your mouth like conventional mouthwashes. Made in a mason jar, which can be reused again and again.
Jumping into the deep end and going 100% zero-waste with an oral care routine might be too overwhelming for some, if so then start off small. Try changing one thing, such as using a biodegradable toothbrush, then over time slowly change the other items until you are at zero or minimal waste.
In the meantime choose to use a recycle company such as TerraCycle who are committed to recycling unwanted toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, dental floss containers, and the packaging they come in. They turn them into plastic lumber and other types of consumer products. To recycle your toothbrush and similar plastic items all you have to do is mail them to TerraCycle using the instructions on the website.
At the start of this blog, we showed the environmental impact the humble toothbrush is having on our earth. Just imagine if we all made that simple switch to a biodegradable toothbrush and what a positive impact it would have on our environment. Better still it can help us to think a little bit more deeply about what we are using on a day-to-day basis and the consequences - because it is the things we do today that will make an impact on our tomorrow.