So, a friend from college asked whether there was enough bamboo for us all if, in theory, we were all to start using bamboo toothbrushes rather than plastic ones. So, I thought it was worth really asking that question and seeing if there is an answer out there….
Currently in the U.K. today there are over 64 million people (BBC, 2015) with it going ever closer to 65 million people (the current stat is from June last year). So working with 65 million as a figure would it be possible?
Now firstly, one has to add that there is a recognition that not all bamboo brushes are plastic free. Some do contain plastic. So for example, brushwithbamboobrushes ( http://www.brushwithbamboo.com/ ) have bristles that contain 62% Castor Bean Oil and are 38% plastic. They note that prior to the invention of nylon – pig hair was traditionally used for toothbrush heads – however, this is not so popular nowadays (although more sustainable). However, even with burshwithbamboo toothbrushes even this slight bit of plastic only makes up 0.1 ounce of plastic waste versus the whole toothbrush (which is is still tons better!).
My personal preference is the brush from Save some Green – and I buy the Bamboo Medium type.
So is there enough bamboo for us all in the U.K. to switch from plastic toothbrushes to bamboo ones?
Moso Bamboo is the type of bamboo that toothbrushes seem to be made from. Currently in the world there are reported to be somewhere between 1000-1600 different types of bamboo (Bamboo Grove, 2008). For those who worry we are taking the bamboo away from pandas when toothbrushes are made don’t worry – Moso Bamboo isn’t the type of Bamboo the Panda eats.
So what’s good about the Moso Bamboo? Well it grows really fast. According to BrushwithBamboo (n.d.) when bamboo is cut to make toothbrushes it only takes 2 years for the bamboo stalk to grow back to the full length (50-75ft).
If one works with the population of the U.K. being 65 million with the recommendation being you replace your toothbrush every three months that means that potentially the U.K. is annually producing somewhere in the region of 260,000,000 Million plastic toothbrushes. And they all eventually end up in landfill. And that is just in the U.K. (Currently Bamboo toothbrushes are only 0.03% of the global supply so I haven’t included this in the calculation but I guess you could if you wanted to (Brush with Bamboo, n.d.).
So I am no maths genius, in fact I didn’t exactly love it at school so I asked my supplier of toothbrushes – SaveSomeGreen – if they thought whether there would be enough Bamboo to support the switch of 65 million people in the U.K. from plastic to bamboo toothbrushes (I figured start small, before asking about the world)
I got a lovely reply from a man called James. Not only did he answer my primary question, but also others I double checked on – such as was it truly 100% compostable and a few others.
Save some Green brushes are 100% compostable with the only plastics being biodegradable nylons in the bristles (and am guessing only the ones that say nylon bristles too – it’s an option). James says these are all compostable – so this make them ‘the most environmentally friendly brushes that there are’ to his knowledge.
He also talked about how they are further modifying their packaging so that a piece of paper holds everything together on every item they supply (exciting reduction of waste there).
He believes that if everyone in the U.K. switched to bamboo (working on the figure of 65 million) it is possible to supply that and would be significantly more friendly to the environment.
So there we go, if everyone in the U.K. wanted to switch to bamboo toothbrushes they could. The question now is will you give them a go?
BBC New (2015) U.K. Population increases by 500,000 official figures show Retrieved March, 30, 2016 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33266792
Bamboo Grove (2008) Species of Bamboo Retrieved March, 30, 2016 from http://www.bamboogrove.com/bamboo-species.html
Brush with Bamboo (n.d.) About the Brush Retrieved March, 30, 2016 from http://www.brushwithbamboo.com/about-the-brush/
Websites of use for buying toothbrushes
http://savesomegreen.co.uk/product/bamboo-toothbrush-2/ – Save Some Green
http://www.brushwithbamboo.com/ – Brush with Bamboo