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For most of us a toothbrush is something we take for granted, right? One of those everyday objects that once used, doesn’t really get a second thought. So, you’ve probably never really considered where your toothbrush came from, how it was made or where it goes after its time on your bathroom shelf is up, and why would you, it’s just a toothbrush right?
WRONG! In some ways, yes it’s just a toothbrush, no big deal, but when you consider its life cycle the plastic toothbrush becomes so much more. To help you think more about the impact of a plastic toothbrush we are going to break down the production cycle to help you think about the repercussions of its use and think about alternative that might be on offer.
From not so Humble Beginnings
Your toothbrush will first start its life as oil, the cost of which to find can often span into the hundreds of millions of pounds and take years of work to locate. As we already know the oil industry is huge and incurs a significant carbon footprint before that oil even leaves the ground. Once the oil has been located and extracted from the ground it will then be sent on lengthily journeys from road to sea to a refinery where it gets separated to form plastic pellets, these will then get shipped off to start their knew life as a plastic toothbrush.
Making the Mould
Once arrived at the factory, the plastic pellets are melted down and shaped with a mould to create the toothbrush handle. Then nylon bristles will be added and secured to the brush head and trimmed by machine to the desired length and shape for each brush.
From Factory to your Door
Once these steps are complete the toothbrushes can be packaged for sale, most commonly using a combination of plastic and cardboard. These are then transported to stores across the nation as well as shipped internationally to be hung on the shelves of a huge variety of shops from supermarkets and chemists to department stores and even online, where you can bring them home and pop them on your bathroom shelf.
So now you’ve got your shiny new toothbrush, what do you do with the old one? Toss it in the bin right? Toothbrushes are non-recyclable items, meaning they can’t be repurposed and must be thrown away; and with recommended advice to replace your toothbrush every 3 months it is thought that around 246 million toothbrushes will be thrown out every year in the UK alone.
In actual fact, once your plastic toothbrush is tossed in to landfill it will stay there for around 1000 years! That’s right, it will take 1000 years for your toothbrush to fully decompose in landfills, and could take about 500 years to biodegrade in the ocean — meaning it will still be hanging around long after you’re gone. When they do eventually start to break down the plastic leeches harmful pollutants into the soil and water, which is extremely harmful and toxic to the environment. Plastic toothbrushes are also one of the biggest contributors to ocean pollution, which causes a threat to both marine wildlife and humans, overrunning our natural resources and causing serious environmental concerns.
So what can be done? With the increase in popularisation of environmentalism and consumer awareness, plastic free alternatives are a growing market and options are popping up everywhere. Bamboo toothbrushes are a great plastic-free alternative that won’t harm the environment and can be disposed of guilt free. Bamboo is the world’s fastest growing tree and left uncut can actually hinder the growth of other trees that surround it. Using a natural resource made from the earth that is durable, water resistant, antimicrobial, and biodegradable is a great advantage as it won’t be sitting around for 1000 years wasting away and won’t pollute after being disposed of.
Yes, sometimes plastic can be useful, its malleable and durable and lasts forever, but this is exactly why we should reduce or possibly avoid using it to produce throw away objects! So why not try something new next time you shop — cut down your environmental footprint and switch to a Bamboo toothbrush.