Not too long ago, one of my former lecturers posted on LinkedIn asking if anyone knew where she could get bamboo toothbrushes with charcoal bristles in bulk. Having seen some bamboo toothbrushes recently, I thought I’d also take a look—thinking it shouldn’t be too difficult, right? There are 100’s available on Pinterest from all over the world: from toothbrushes with red bristles right through to rainbow or black bristles. Some are available in small quantities, and you can even get a subscription to get your brush as often as you’d like in either soft, medium, or firm, children’s or adults.
With all these options, you would think that finding what you wanted would be easy.
The general idea of using a bamboo toothbrush is to reduce your plastic use and prevent as much plastic pollution as possible. Bamboo is a great alternative as it grows quickly, is biodegradable, and can even be made into paper. However, the biggest issue with most bamboo toothbrushes is that the bristles are made from nylon, which is plastic. As the bristles are so fine, they will become microplastics much quicker and enter into the food chain a lot sooner.
However, it is not just the bristles that can be a problem. Buying online means that as consumers we have little to no choice on how the toothbrush is packaged or sent to us. This is especially an issue if you buy from a large company that does not practice environmental awareness or participate in the zero-waste movement. Whether it’s the box or bag it comes in or the heat-formed mould attaching the brush to cardboard, many environmentally friendly toothbrushes defeat their purpose before they get to you just because of how they are packaged.
Following the nightmare discovery that nylon was used in the bristles, I went on another hunt. Surely someone had created a bamboo toothbrush that didn’t contain plastic.
More searching brought me to a site called &Keep, a shop whose motto is “Creating a better Tomorrow, Today”. This was the one! They carry a brand called Hydrophil, which makes bamboo toothbrushes, the bristles of which are made from castor oil. Unfortunately, they do not contain the charcoal my former lecturer requested, nor are they fully compostable at home. Despite these drawbacks, they are water-neutral, the castor oil is not used as food for us or animals, they’re petroleum and BPA free, and vegan friendly.
People the world over have been clamouring for reduced plastic in supermarkets, and companies with environmentally friendly packaging are normally very keen to say so. While postage packaging is often another consideration, if the company specialises in environmental, ethical, or vegan/vegetarian goods, more often than not they will also ship in an environmentally friendly manner.
There are many companies that do tell you how they package their goods. Anything but plastic assures the consumer that they do not just remove the plastic before sending it to you, and they work with manufacturers to reduce the plastic they are sent to the seller in. This is great transparency as you the consumer know that the plastic isn’t included in shipping (for you to dispose of), nor is it kept with the sellers to be disposed of. Even better, you know they are working to ensure the plastic is never made in the first place.
Brush with bamboo admit to having a mix of 62% castor bean oil with 38% nylon as their bristle composition. However, they do state that as of March 2019 all their toothbrushes come in only a paper box. Similarly, Ethical Superstore uses many alternatives including Geami WrapPak as an alternative to bubble wrap. The WrapPak consists of outer layers of kraft paper (unbleached) with tissue paper between, which can then be expanded into a 3D honeycomb. The ends can interlock meaning no tape is required. Speaking of tape, they also used unbleached kraft roll and PVC-free packaging tape. They use reused packaging from suppliers along with 100% recycled paper to fill in the gaps of packages. To find out what else they have done to become a Zero waste to landfill company (as of October 2016) visit their website here.
The previously mentioned &Keep also assures that their packaging is always completely plastic free, as are most of their products. They will state if they aren’t, but they will always be BPA free. You can find more information about their packaging and policies in the “About Us” section of their website. The Ethical Superstore have created a page dedicated to packaging information because they’re so proud of what they have achieved—and rightly so.
If you’d like to learn more about how to be a “greener” shopper, read this article.
Knowing how harmful plastics can be, what are some tips for reducing your plastic consumption when buying online? Should companies have to be transparent about their packaging?
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