Tooth Talk with Brinkley Dental Group – Toothbrushes and landfills…..is it time for an alternative?

We should start by saying these Brinkley Blogs are all about sharing information we think our patients and their friends and family might be interested in. We are not in the business of endorsing one product over another – instead we are in the business of providing great oral care as part of your personal commitment to your own overall health and wellness. That said, the issue of toothbrushes, plastic, waste and landfills is certainly something we hear a great deal about, especially when it’s a fairly common practice to suggest patients switch out their toothbrush every three months. So today, we look at disposing toothbrushes, the landfill issue and ask the question; “Are there any alternatives?”

Various sites will tell you that as many as 800 million toothbrushes end up in a landfill each year and that’s just in America! Some estimates put that figure at closer to 1 billion! That’s a lot of plastic in our landfills. It appears that finally, the world is taking notice of this potentially enormous problem and companies are jumping on the bandwagon of change. It’s long overdue. Some companies have launched recycling initiatives where you are actually encouraged to send your used toothbrushes, dental floss tools and containers and any other tooth related paraphernalia to them for recycling. In the US, another firm has started placing specific recycling bins for toothbrushes in some cities across the country in order to help redirect the number of toothbrushes going to landfills.

With origins in Australia (at least as far as the research we’ve uncovered) some companies are aiming to change the profile of the plastic toothbrush using environmentally responsible materials like bamboo, birch or beech wood. Bristles remain problematic with alternatives to plastic either hard to find (in terms of usability) or unpalatable to the masses (one German company was exploring pig hair as an option for brush bristles!)  With the average toothbrush lasting anywhere from 75 – 100 years in a landfill and the average consumer dumping about 12 pounds worth of toothbrushes in their lifetime, there is no doubt we need to think seriously about alternatives. However, making them accessible, affordable and palatable is also important too!

Would you be interested in spending a little bit more on an environmentally friendly toothbrush? Would you consider alternatives to plastic bristles, even including pig hair? These are the kinds of questions we might need to ask ourselves in the immediate future as we tackle the increasing problem of plastic waste, full landfills and garbage spilling over into our oceans. It appears straws aren’t the only problem and while we’ve made great headway in recent months on reducing the use of straws here in Canada, it appears the toothbrush might be the next big project to tackle. Just don’t think of this as an excuse to stop brushing however! As always, thanks for reading and remember: “don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”

 

Sources include: Plastic Pollution Coalition, olabamboo.com, 1 million Women, Colgate, TerraCycle and others……