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The Problem With Plastic Toothbrush

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Author: Hai Le

Updated on February 20, 2024 • Estimated read time: 9 minutes

Did you ever wonder why plastic toothbrush is bad? How can such a small item that we use every single day have a negative effect on our environment?

Since the first one was made in the 1930s, the total number of plastic toothbrushes being produced, used, and thrown away every single year has grown exponentially. Have you ever thought of the impact these plastic toothbrushes have on our environment?

Despite being affordable and might seem like a convenient option to brush our teeth, these plastic toothbrushes come with a hidden cost to the environment. From ending up in landfills to becoming part of giant islands of floating plastic, these everyday items can cause a lot of damage.

In this blog, I'm going to show you the result of plastic toothbrushes on our environment, how your plastic toothbrushes are part of the plastic crisis, and outline what you can do to reduce your environmental impact.

How Does Your Plastic Toothbrush Become Part Of The Plastic Crisis?

The first problem with plastic toothbrushes is production. Toothbrush design has evolved, and the most significant difference compared to its earliest form is the materials.

Plastic toothbrushes are made from a mix of plastic materials that combine elements of rubber, crude oil, and petroleum. (A bad mix to put in your mouth every day)

Fun Fact: According to National Geographic, 99% of all toothbrushes in the world are made from plastic. And the average person uses around 300 of these plastic toothbrushes in their lifetime.

The second problem with using a plastic toothbrush is disposal. When you throw away your plastic toothbrush, it doesn't magically disappear. Instead, your plastic will be sent to a landfill—where it could take up to 1,000 years to break down.

What about Electric Toothbrush? Well, electric toothbrushes are also made of plastic and rubber. And if the batteries that power these electric toothbrushes aren't disposed of properly, they can leak out acid to the environment, which will potentially cause harm to the environment.

Plastic waste is one of our planet's biggest environmental crises. This is because plastic takes too long to degrade, and we're creating so much of it. They often remain in the landfill forever, but when a plastic toothbrush makes its way into our environment, it doesn't decompose. It either lingers as large debris or breaks down into smaller pieces of plastic, where animals often mistake them for food.

Summary: Plastic toothbrush is obviously made out of plastic, which takes about 1000 years to degrade. Coupled with our throwaway culture, we create a very toxic legacy for our present and future generations.

6 plastic toothbrushes in a tiny blue trash bin

How Many Toothbrushes Are Being Thrown Away Every Year?

Fun Fact: The American Dental Association suggests everyone replace their toothbrush every three to four months. If everyone around the world followed these recommendations, about 23 billion plastic toothbrushes would get trashed annually.

Estimates may vary, but the numbers paint a pretty clear picture:

  • United States: According to National Geographic, Americans will throw away 1 billion toothbrushes this year, generating a staggering 50 million pounds of waste. And if you laid those toothbrushes from end to end, they would wrap around the Earth four times!
  • Globally: The numbers are even more concerning globally, with some reports suggesting over 5 billion of these plastic toothbrushes are being thrown away every single year around the world. To put it in perspective, that's enough to circle the Earth more than 20 times per year!

Summary: Every morning, hundreds of millions, if not billions of people reach for their trusty toothbrush to clean their teeth. Unfortunately, the convenience of plastic toothbrushes comes at a cost. Each year, a staggering number of them end up in landfills, creating a mountain of plastic waste that takes thousands of years to fully decompose.

Beach polluted with plastic waste

What Is The Impact Of Plastic Toothbrush On Our Environment?

Over the past few years, I have interviewed hundreds of environmentalists, read plenty of books related to the topic, and here what I learned: The biggest problem we are facing right now is plastic. Plastic is polluting our ocean, impacting our biodiversity, and affecting our human health.

According to National Geographic, every toothbrush that's been produced since the 1930s still exists on this planet. Many of these are broken down into small pieces of plastic (where many animals and marine creatures mistake them for food), which scientists name microplastics.

The Problem With Plastic Toothbrush

  • Plastic toothbrushes are not recyclable
  • Plastic toothbrushes are not biodegradable
  • Plastic toothbrushes are harmful to the environment
  • More plastic for the packaging around the toothbrushes

Fun Fact: Plastic toothbrushes are one of the top contributors to plastic waste in our oceans today, about 4.7 million toothbrushes end up in our oceans every single year.

And even worse, plastic toothbrushes make up a huge portion of beach litter too. Now, in any given Hawaii beach cleanup, it's not uncommon to pick up 20 or even 100 toothbrushes.

Summary: It's no surprise that plastic toothbrushes are one of the contributors to the plastic crisis. Not only does it drain the oil supply, but plastic toothbrushes are also polluting our ocean, and harming wildlife. The modern plastic toothbrush is un-recyclable, and never fully biodegraded. They'll just break into smaller microplastics, where marine life and birds often mistake them for food. (Can you imagine having pieces of plastic stuck inside an animal's stomach?... google it, it happens every day!)

Man comparing bamboo and plastic toothbrush in a grey background

The Eco-Friendly Solution!

What's the first thing you touch in the morning? It's probably your plastic toothbrush.

Do you really want the first thing you put in your mouth every day to be plastic?

While plastic toothbrushes can be very harmful to the environment, there is an alternative that can help reduce the damage being done.

Introducing the eco-hero: Bamboo toothbrushes

Switching to a bamboo toothbrush is probably one of the most affordable ways you can take to reduce your plastic consumption. Unlike their plastic counterparts, bamboo is a natural and sustainable material, it's fast-growing, plant-based, and 100% biodegradable. Which is the ideal choice to replace the plastic toothbrush.

Fun Fact: According to Guinness World Records, bamboo is the fastest-growing plant in the world, and it can regrow quickly after being cut down.

By making informed choices and embracing sustainable practices, we can ensure that our daily oral hygiene routine doesn't come at the expense of our planet's health.

Again, the average person uses around 300 toothbrushes in their lifetime. So make sure your toothbrush is eco-friendly! And if you want to move into a greener future, buy a bamboo toothbrush right away.

Summary: Don't want your oral hygiene to pollute our planet? Then ditch your plastic toothbrush for eco-friendly bamboo today. Bamboo toothbrushes are obviously made out of bamboo, a natural and biodegradable material that helps reduce plastic waste output and promotes a cleaner, healthier environment! Remember, every toothbrush counts, and together we can brush away the problem of plastic waste.

Quick Takeaway

So what exactly is the problem, and how can we make a difference?

Plastic toothbrushes, despite seeming small and convenient, contribute significantly to plastic pollution. About 5 billion plastic toothbrushes are being thrown away every year, and almost all of them are unrecyclable.

Using plastic toothbrushes not only drains the oil supply, but it's also polluting our ocean and killed millions of wildlife animals every year. They contribute to resource depletion, landfill overflow, and microplastic pollution.

In a world increasingly aware of the damage that plastic is doing to our environment, it's easy to wonder why you even use a plastic toothbrush at all. So if you don't want your bathroom accessory to be responsible for polluting our planet any more than it already does, it's time to switch up your brushing habits with an eco-friendly alternative like bamboo!

Frequently Asked Questions Relate To This Blog:

Question #1: Why are plastic toothbrush bad?

Answer: Plastic toothbrushes can be bad and harmful in many ways. To our environment, they are not biodegradable nor recyclable, and can leach harmful chemicals into the environment. To our health, they could be leaching off chemicals into your mouth while brushing.

Question #2: How long does it take for a plastic toothbrush to decompose?

Answer: Plastic toothbrushes are made from petroleum, a non-biodegradable material, which means it cannot be broken down by bacteria or other organisms. As a result, plastic toothbrushes can take hundreds of years to fully decompose in landfills.

Question #3: What are the alternatives to plastic toothbrushes?

Answer: Bamboo toothbrushes are considered to be a great alternative because they are just as effective as plastic toothbrushes at cleaning your teeth. Also, they are made from bamboo, the fastest-growing plant in the world that is sustainable and biodegradable.

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