I been using bamboo toothbrushes for the past couple of years now, and have LOVED it! Brushing my pearly whites knowing I’m not contributing to the ever-increasing piles of landfill is a good feelin’ 😉 Plus, pairing my eco-friendly toothbrush with my DIY all natural toothpaste is like a double whammy! No chemicals or plastics will be polluting planet Earth on my watch, haha.
Buuuuut, there was a downside. I knew you could compost these bad boys (except the bristles, I knew they had to be recycled somehow), but the question was how? Could they simply be thrown into the backyard compost? Would they break down there? Would it take years? Were they only for commercial composts?
So many unanswered questions… until now! I went researching into the proper disposal of bamboo toothbrushes and learnt the ins and outs of how to correctly compost/dispose of these eco-friendly toothbrushes. I’ve had a collection of these toothbrushes over the past two years, as well as collected my friends and family’s brushes to dispose of them in the right way (some of them were just going to throw them away – which wouldn’t be terrible – just not the best way).
So with my collection of toothbrushes and armed with the knowledge of how now to correctly dispose of them I was ready. And now you’ll be too! Here is a quick guide to show you how to dispose of your bamboo toothbrush properly, to ensure it breaks down and returns to the earth as quickly as possible, for maximum environmental friendliness 😉
A Step-By-Step Guide to Dispose of a Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrush
A fresh, shiny, brand new toothbrush is a much better tool for cleaning your teeth than an old, well-worn, half-the-bristles-have-fallen-out toothbrush, so it’s important to replace your toothbrush regularly, when needed.
Bamboo toothbrushes are usually said to last up to 6 months, however doctors recommend replacing toothbrushes every 2 months, so its up to your discretion how regularly you want to change up your toothbrush (I’m more relaxed with my toothbrush replacing, and tend to change up brushes every 6-8 months *shocking, I know* 😉 ). Whether you use a plastic toothbrush or a bamboo one, the result tends to be the same; the bristles wear down, and bacteria can build up on the brush – even though the bamboo handle is naturally antibacterial.
So, when switching up your old bamboo toothbrush for a new one, here’s how to dispose of the old one properly:
Step 1: Upcycle your toothbrush!
Reduce, reuse, recycle! There are so many different ideas to repurpose and reuse an old toothbrush out there to give your battered-looking brush a second chance at life! Once your toothbrush has served its’ original purpose in cleaning your teeth, you can upcycle/reuse it for a greater purpose! Just be sure to boil it in hot water for a few minutes first to sterilise and sanitise it, and maybe mark it in some way to remind your future self that it’s not to be used for cleaning teeth. Here are a few ways an old toothbrush could come in handy and be used again, and again, and again!
- Make garden markers. I saw this idea on a YouTube video and thought it was such a great idea! No more trying to discern between the tomato and capsicum plant out in the garden, just write the name of each plant on an old bamboo toothbrush and push it into the soil as a handy little reminder and sign post for each plant!
- Apply hair dye. A toothbrush makes just the right tool for adding a streak of colour to hair or simply to touch up roots!
- Clean your bathroom with it. An old toothbrush is just the right size and shape and makes for the perfect tool to reach all those hard to reach spots, like in the corners of the counter top, between tiles, inside plug holes, or even inside the toilet. It’s even great for cleaning kitchen and bathroom grout, just load up the brush with baking soda and clean away!
- Clean up a comb. Combs have “teeth” too (though a little different to ours 😉 ), and they accumulate oil and dust over time. Have you noticed this with your own comb? When you haven’t used it in a while, and you pull it out of the bottom of your draw or cupboard and what a sight beholds you… dust all over it! Simply load up a toothbrush with soap (or you can use toothpaste) and scrub away the oil, dust and dirt.
- Cleaning and maintaining electrical items. An old toothbrush works wonders in cleaning out dust from between the keys on your computer keyboard, or to remove debris from the vents on a hairdryer or filter on a vacuum cleaner (just make sure the toothbrush is dry when using it on electronics!)
- Clean cooking utensils. Keep an old toothbrush by your sink to clean out your garlic crusher, cheese grater, sieve and more! It’s the perfect tool for cleaning stubborn bits of food off hard to reach places on cooking equipment.
- Painting. A toothbrush can be a really quirky a fun way to make artworks and paintings! The bristles on a toothbrush can be great for splattering specks of paint and colour on a canvas or adding texture to your designs.
- Scrub sports equipment. Mud stuck between the studs on your soccer boots? Have a dirty bike chain? An old toothbrush just what you need to scrub that grime off and have them clean again in no time!
If you any other tips to re-use and upcycle an old toothbrush, please share them with us in the comments below! We’d love to hear them!
Step 2: Remove the bristles from the brush
While most bamboo toothbrush bristles are recyclable, they’re also the only part of the bamboo toothbrush that isn’t biodegradable (it’s only a tiny little bit of material, but it’s still important to dispose of it properly all the same).
As of yet, these bamboo toothbrush companies haven’t been able to find a biodegradable fibre that exists that cleans teeth as well and for as long as the industry standard nylon-6 bristles used most commonly in these brushes (apart from pig hair, which has its own ethical and environmental implications).
So, for us bamboo toothbrush users, we must resort to removing these bristles by hand and dispose of them separately from the toothbrush handle. There are a couple of different ways you can remove the bristles:
- Pull them out with pliers (my preferred method)
- Snap the whole toothbrush head off
The easiest and less time-consuming way I’ve found when doing this is to just pull them out with pliers. To make this process as easy as possible, don’t try to pull out too many bristles at once, and use a slight rolling action to help wiggle them free of the handle. This will help to pull the bristles and the little metal staples out.
Once separated, the bristles can go into your plastic recycling. However, as they are so small they can be easily lost, so it’s recommended to first put them inside another plastic item you’re going to recycle, like a bottle or carton, packaging, etc.
If you’ve been able to greatly reduce your plastic consumption to the point where you rarely, if ever, have any plastic containers to recycle, 1. that’s amazing and congratulations! And 2. think about possibly keeping a plastic container you’ve collected from a friend or family member, or found on a trash walk or litter pick, that’s solely dedicated to being filled up with these bristles.
Step 3: Compost the bamboo handle
The handle of a bamboo toothbrush is 100% biodegradable, which is awesome, right?! However, it’s still important to think about how you’re going to dispose of it to make sure it breaks down as quickly as possible.
It’s recommended that you either put it in your bio-waste bin to be disposed in a commercial composting facility, where it will break down in a few weeks, or put it in a home compost bin if you have one. If you do just end up throwing it into your normal rubbish bin and the toothbrush ends up in landfill, it will still biodegrade, it will just take a few years.
Bamboo is a material that will break down entirely over time, but it’s quite robust and rot-resistant (which is why it’s so great for making toothbrushes with). It’s hard to say how long bamboo will ultimately take to break down, as it really depends on the conditions: is it in or on the soil? In warm and wet conditions, or a dry and cold climate?
How long will a bamboo toothbrush take to biodegrade?
According to BAMWOO:
- If simply thrown into your garden, it may take as long as 5-10 years to fully break down.
- If buried horizontally in the soil, it may take around 3 years to completely decompose.
- If placed into a home compost bin, it may take around 4-6 months (depending on composition and size of bin). You can help speed the process up a bit by breaking the toothbrush into smaller pieces with a hammer, saw or other tool.
- In a commercial composting facility, it may only take a few weeks for it to break down! (The conditions are much hotter and more active than a simple home compost bin).
Simple as that! When replacing your old toothbrush for a new one, just make sure to take good care of it and keep it in good condition for as long as possible (which just basically means allow it to dry properly).
Do you have any tips for reusing a bamboo toothbrush or how to better care for a bamboo toothbrush? Share with us in the comments below! We love hearing your tips and suggestions!
Lots of love,
Clark, Matt. (November 19, 2018). How To Dispose of a Bamboo Toothbrush Properly. BAMWOO. Retrieved from https://bamwoo-bamboo.com/blogs/the-bamwoo-blog/how-to-dispose-of-biodegradable-bamboo-toothbrush
7 uses for an old toothbrush. (April 2016). Delta Dentil. Retrieved from https://www.deltadentalins.com/oral_health/7-uses-for-an-old-toothbrush.html