Zero Waste Teeth


The first toothbrush you ever had still exists somewhere in landfill, and will still be there when your great-great-grandchildren are teething.

You probably want to see an end to this. In which case, there are several options. I need to come clean, though, about the fact that I am not sure which of these is the greenest. So, I’ll list them here and then give you my best guess.

1. A biodegradable bamboo toothbrush, of which there are many different brands. There is a bamboo brush for every mouth, but my personal favourite is Humble Brush. As well as being good to use, it’s available in adult and child sizes and comes in a compostable wrapper and a box made from recycled cardboard.  It’s available in some branches of Waitrose or Holland and Barratt, or order online.

Otherwise, there are many types of bamboo toothbrushes on the market –  google is your friend here. (Just be wary of brands claiming their bristles are biodegradable).

(Two things to note: the toothbrush won’t decompose if it’s put in the general waste bin. It should go to the compost pile or food waste collection, if it is ever to be returned to Mother Earth. Also, make sure you rinse and dry it when you’ve finished using it. A wet bamboo brush will do what it is designed to do, which is, to rot.)

2. Conventional toothbrushes with replaceable heads.  Source make theirs from recycled materials, or Yaweco  do them for a lower price. Both of these are available in health food stores or online. These are great for people who don’t have a way to compost.

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3. Preserve toothbrushes are made from recycled yoghurt pots. You can even send your used toothbrushes back to the company in the US for closed loop recycling.

So which is the the most environmentally friendly option? It’s hard to say, as there doesn’t seem to be much research comparing them all. Intuitively, it seems as if it should be the one made from bamboo – it’s made from a renewable source, and since it biodegrades, certainly feels the greenest. It’s just that most of the environmental impacts of the things we use take place earlier in a product’s lifecycle, as the raw materials are being extracted and the product is manufactured and transported. A bamboo toothbrush will have to be manufactured and shipped over and over again, and I am not 100% sure whether bamboo is always sustainably grown.

The conventional toothbrush with a replaceable head will possibly have fewer overall impacts, as just one small part needs to be replaced. And how all this compares to the impacts of the recycled toothbrush? I honestly don’t know. My best guess is that the toothbrush with the replaceable heads is the most environmentally friendly option, which also has the advantage of being cheaper, but in the absence of any more concrete information you may want to choose whichever is most convenient and affordable for you.

Toothpaste

Sigh. I still haven’t found a tooth-friendly solution to the problem of toothpaste tubes. There are a number of ideas popular with zero wasters, such as toothpaste in glass jars or recipes made with bicarbonate of soda. However it’s not clear that glass jars are better for the environment, and I’m not sure these toothpastes are good for your teeth – many of them don’t contain fluoride, and my dentist warns against brushing your teeth with bicarb on a regular basis. Personally I’m not willing to risk tooth decay in order to prevent a relatively small amount of waste.

Dental Floss

First, is it worth bothering about such a tiddly piece of waste?

Some people worry about animals or birds being strangled by waste pieces of floss (although I’m not sure how likely this is to happen if you dispose of it properly in a bin). You might also want to find a zero waste alternative if you’ve given up your waste bin and have no wish to hang on to pieces of used floss in a jar. Or maybe zero wasters are just perfectionists.

Whatever your reason, here are your options:

Dental Lace, comes in refillable capsules containing silk floss coated in vegetable-based wax. The packaging is designed to look good if you are carrying it with you.

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For vegans, EcoDent  do standard floss in cardboard packaging, which can at least be recycled.

For interdental brushes, your plastic-free option are these by Dent-O-Care.

Otherwise, if sourcing zero waste floss seems like too much hassle, don’t worry. It’s just dental floss.

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5 thoughts on “Zero Waste Teeth

  1. Thanks for the feedback, however I’m not sure whether you have read the whole post.

    ‘How is ‘disposing of properly in a bin’ going to prevent dental floss from going to landfill?’

    I’ve recommended some biodegradable, refillable dental floss.

    ‘Tooth cleaning options are really plentiful…’

    As I said: ‘There are a number of ideas popular with zero wasters…. I’m not sure these toothpastes are good for your teeth.’

    ‘bicarb may be abrasive, you don’t need much’

    As I said: ‘my dentist warns against brushing your teeth with bicarb on a regular basis.’

    ‘there are other natural ingredients and oils you can mix with it to get a clean mouth and teeth….
    Just feel you haven’t lived up to your name with this article… “The zero waster”?’

    Thanks for the tips, just feel you are probably not qualified to give out dental health advice?

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  2. Ryan

    You have some great info and good advice on your site but this article is full of conflicting messages…
    How is ‘disposing of properly in a bin’ going to prevent dental floss from going to landfill? The point is surely to not use it in the first place.

    Tooth cleaning options are really plentiful… There are loads of suggestions online. And whilst bicarb may be abrasive, you don’t need much and there are other natural ingredients and oils you can mix with it to get a clean mouth and teeth, rather than just buying a tube of toothpaste.

    Just feel you haven’t lived up to your name with this article… “The zero waster”?

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  5. uselessbags

    Yes, I think it is horrible to think all the toothbrushes we have ever used are still sitting there :/. I will certainly be buying bamboo for my next brush as I’m trying to go packaging free and reduce my waste. I was wondering how it would be when it comes down to buying new toothpaste, thanks for the heads up! (I also liked your round up of the latest good news, we need more of this!) Thanks, Beth

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