We do not need more plastic on our earth. We all agree. Therefore, more and more people are switching from conventional plastic toothbrushes to bamboo toothbrushes. But how sustainable is such a bamboo toothbrush actually?
PART 1: THE RAW MATERIAL BAMBOO & PRODUCTION IN CHINA
1. Why bamboo as the main ingredient of a toothbrush?
You just have to love bamboo. It combines just about all the properties that our environment needs in a single material. Giant Bamboo eg reaches its maximum length of 20 meters within a few months. It then takes about 4-5 years for the tree to develop its excellent hardwood-like properties. Because bamboo grows extremely fast, large quantities can be mined annually without endangering the stock. In contrast, hardwood is often ready for use only after 50-100 years. The rapid growth also means that bamboo can convert a lot of CO2 into oxygen compared to trees. Because the bamboo is such a resilient “weed”, it does not need pesticides and fertilizers to grow.
Bamboo, therefore, has two main advantages :
- Bamboo is a resource that grows very fast and is sustainable by definition. Petroleum, from which most of the plastic is made, is finite. That’s why we should not use more of it than we really need.
- Bamboo is biodegradable and plastic lingers on our planet for 500 years. We have to change things about the garbage piles we produce.
2. How sustainable is it to produce toothbrushes made of bamboo in China and to transport them to Germany?
There are several reasons why brushes should not be produced in Germany.
China is no longer the cheap country it once was. There are business people who have their ideas and enforce them as well as the Germans.
The bamboo itself grows in China. There it grows without fertilizer so fast and so high that you can actually watch it grow – depending on the species. This would not be possible in Europe without fertilizer. And that would then be found in the final product.
- The transport of bamboo pipes would take up an enormous amount of space. Because the pipes are hollow inside.
Suppose you send the amount of bamboo that you need for 100 brushes, unprocessed. In comparison, 100 brushes occupy only about 1/10 of the space. The so-called “life cycle assessment” for 1 brush is thus much better.
- The quality
In China, people specialize in the processing of bamboo. In Europe, this raw material is still relatively rarely represented. A constant and above all high quality is guaranteed.
- The price
Since the necessary machines are already available in China, there are no expensive initial costs, which are then transferred back to the product.
If you’re realistic, a bamboo toothbrush will not compete with a plastic toothbrush from Europe. Almost all of our toothbrushes or toothbrush heads are produced in the Far East and thus go back the same way. The long transport route is certainly not ideal. But in the production of plastic also CO2 is produced. By contrast, bamboo transforms CO2 into oxygen through photosynthesis. Then the difference is not that big anymore.
3. Production conditions in China
As mentioned earlier, China is not a cheap country that is often sold to us in the media. The small and medium-sized companies, including our production company, offer their workers very good working conditions. To convince themselves, these companies also offer regular viewing appointments. The companies in which the workers are doing badly are the productions of the really big brands – I will not name one, but everyone knows which brands I mean.
Much of the bamboo sold in Europe comes from China. Environmental and social standards are naturally low compared to the Western world. However, it is positive that bamboo cultivation has so far been little industrialized and for the most part is in the hands of small farmers.
PART 2: THE BAMBOO TOOTHBRUSH & ITS INGREDIENTS
4. Why should I even switch to a bamboo toothbrush?
With the daily use of the toothbrush, the plastic is usually rubbed against the mucous membrane for three minutes. It dissolves small plastic particles, which then enter the circulation. This also shows the documentation. How much plastic is in our body and what consequences that has for us, we can unfortunately not really say today. But what we can say with certainty – it is not healthy.
A toothbrush is used for about 2 to 3 months. Then you throw them away to replace them with a new one. So it creates a lot of plastic waste. First through the packaging and secondly through the brush itself. Our bamboo toothbrushes are packed in a waste paper box. The brushes themselves can also be disposed of well.
5. Bamboo toothbrush bristles: differences
Right, there are different bristles. Currently, you can distinguish between
- Bristles made of biological plastic (nylon-4) or “normal” plastic (nylon)
- Bristles of bamboo viscose
The advantages and disadvantages are listed quickly.
Bamboo bristles are made of bamboo pulp. They are biodegradable – and relatively fast compared to organic plastics. However, the hardness can only be influenced by the bristle density here.
Bristles made of biological plastic (nylon-4) or “normal” plastic (nylon):
Bristles made of bio-plastic can be influenced very easily in the degree of hardness. They are biodegradable – but very slow. Bristles made of “normal” plastic (nylon) are not biodegradable.
6. Disposal of the bamboo toothbrush & service life
For reasons of hygiene, I recommend changing the toothbrush every 3 months. If you were sick in between, you should boil the brush or scald with boiling water. Depending on the model, the brush can completely go into the fire, be buried or just thrown on the compost. The bristles made of bio-plastic are biodegradable but take a long time. Therefore it is best to dispose of the head separately. Cancel and put in the trash. The stalk burns best then. This bamboo toothbrush with bamboo viscose bristles can actually be placed completely on the compost pile or into the fire. *
* To play safe, you should break off your head and dispose of it separately.
7. Is there a 100% compostable bamboo toothbrush at all?
100% compostable is very difficult. The production of bristles always uses chemistry. This can never be avoided, in my opinion. This chemistry will always be present in the product. Thus, a small amount of plastic. This plastic is biodegradable – only at which time? Yes, you can throw the brush into the biowaste. No, the waste company will not be happy about that. In an organic waste should only things that rot quickly. And the brush does not do that. Would be also bad if she rotted while brushing her teeth.
CONCLUSION: Bamboo toothbrushes are certainly NOT the panacea for the plastic problem. However, they are a step in the right direction and it is (although very rarely) already grown bamboo in Europe. So it’s definitely a product that has a lot of potentials.