How to recycle a bamboo toothbrush properly. A full step-by-step guide – plus ways to upcycle a toothbrush!
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 feeling. Plus, pairing my eco-friendly toothbrush with my DIY all natural toothpaste is like a double whammy! No chemicals. No plastics.
But, there was a downside. I knew you could compost these brushes (except the bristles), but the question was how? Could they simply be thrown into my backyard compost? Would they break down there? Would it take years? Or were they only for commercial composting facilities?
So many unanswered questions… Until now.
How to Properly Recycle a Bamboo Toothbrush
I went delving into the depths of the internet and discovered the ins and outs of how to correctly compost/dispose of these eco-friendly toothbrushes. I’ve developed a little collection of bamboo brushes over these past two years – some of which includes my friends and family’s brushes – to finally dispose of them in the right way. My friends were just going to throw them away but I wanted to recycle them properly.
So with my collection of toothbrushes at hand, and armed with the knowledge of how to correctly recycle 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.
Before we get started in learning how to dispose of bamboo toothbrushes properly – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my email newsletter at the bottom of the page to keep up to date on the latest recipes, DIYs, gardening and health tips I share!!
A Step-By-Step Guide to Recycling a Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrush
A fresh, shiny, brand new toothbrush is a much better tool for cleaning teeth than an old, well-used, half-the-bristles-have-fallen-out kinda 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 your toothbrush. I’m a little more on the relaxed side of things with my toothbrush, and tend to change up brushes every 8-12 months, or when they’re looking a little haphazard (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 for repurposing and reusing an old, worn-out toothbrush. Once your toothbrush has served its’ original purpose in cleaning your teeth, you can reuse it for another purpose! Just 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, and it’s ready to go! Here are a few ways an old toothbrush could 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 streaks of colour or to touch up roots.
- Clean your bathroom with it. An old toothbrush is just the right size and shape for reaching those hard-to-clean places. It’s especially helpful for cleaning kitchen and bathroom grout, just load up the brush with baking soda and clean away.
- Clean up a hair brush. Combs and hair brushes accumulate oil and dust over time. Have you noticed? When you haven’t used them in a while, and you pull out bits of hair caught in the “teeth”, behold: dust and grey lint all over it. A toothbrush can be helpful for cleaning this away.
- Painting. A toothbrush can be a really quirky, fun way to make artworks and paintings! It can add texture or be used to splatter specks of paint on the canvas.
- Clean your keyboard. Use your toothbrush to gently clean your keyboard and rid it of dust, crumbs, oils and other impurities stuck in between the keys.
- Clean kitchen utensils. Garlic crushers and cheese graters can be difficult to clean. An old toothbrush can be helpful for this.
- Scrub shoes. Mud stuck between your football boots or joggers? An old toothbrush is the perfect thing for cleaning this!
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.
Most bamboo toothbrush companies use the industry standard nylon-6 bristles, except this one, which is the first 100% plant-based bamboo toothbrush!
This means that we bamboo toothbrush users 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 do this:
- Pull them out with pliers (my preferred method)
- Snap the whole toothbrush head off
To make the process of pulling them out with pliers 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 from the handle. This will help to pull out the bristles and the little metal staples.
Once separated, the bristles can go into your plastic recycling bin but not in the mixed recyclable bins. However, as they are so small they can be easily lost, so it’s recommended to first put them inside another plastic item that you’re going to recycle, like a plastic bottle, carton, packaging, etc.
If you’ve been able to reduce your plastic consumption to the point where you rarely, if ever, have any plastic containers to recycle:
- That’s amazing, congratulations!
- Think about keeping a plastic container you’ve collected from a friend, family member, or found on a trash walk, that’s solely dedicated to filling with these bristles.
Step 3: Compost the Bamboo Handle
The handle of a bamboo toothbrush is 100% biodegradable and compostable!
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 goes to 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, wet conditions, or a dry, 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 in 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 – allow it to dry properly.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post.
Do you have any tips for reusing a bamboo toothbrush or how to better care for one? Share in the comments below.
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
How to Dispose a Bamboo Toothbrush in 3 Steps (Zero Waste). (September 26, 2019). The Bam & Boo Toothbrush. Retrieved from https://thebamandboo.com/blogs/the-bam-boo-blog/how-to-dispose-of-a-bamboo-toothbrush-3-steps-with-zero-waste
How to Responsibly Dispose of Your Bamboo Toothbrush. (September 21, 2020). Kappi. Retrieved from https://www.kappi.com.au/blogs/kappi-life/how-to-dispose-of-your-bamboo-toothbrush
Proper Care & Disposal. Brush with Bamboo. Retrieved from https://www.brushwithbamboo.com/proper-care-disposal/
How To Recycle Your Bamboo Toothbrush In 3 Easy Steps. (December 10, 2020). Ecoy. Retrieved from https://ecoy.com.au/blogs/eco-friendly/how-to-recycle-bamboo-toothbrush