Wednesday, 28 October 2009

I'm a Pink Toothbrush, You're a Blue Toothbrush

Is there such a thing as a plastic-free toothbrush?
Help! I need a new toothbrush! Desperately. But how on earth am I going to find one that's not plastic? I really don’t fancy having to use a twig to clean my teeth for evermore.

My trusty internet asearch engine is the only way forwatrd, and so off to Google I go. I type in ‘non plastic toothbrush’ expecting a total of zero results. But, aha! I am not the only plastic freak out here…

A little toothbrush history
According to The Daily Green: The Consumer’s Guide to the Green Revolution, “The toothbrush as we know it was invented in the 15th century in China and was originally concocted of boar's hair or horsehair and bamboo or bone…

“If you consider that the average human life expectancy today is about 78 years and then multiply that by the times one might replace a toothbrush (every 4 months or so) you get a grand total of 312 toothbrushes used and then discarded by any given individual during his or her time on the planet.”

That doesn’t sound horrendous on its own, but when you consider how many people there are on the planet, well, it really starts to add up.

So what alternatives are actually out there?

With a little perseverance, I find there’s quite a selection of biodegradable and/or natural toothbrushes to choose from: Peelu, Acca Kappa, Swissco. None of them are quite perfect, but here are my top finds:

1. Radius: made from wood or flax, or even dollar bills, with changeable heads. But the heads and bristles are plastic and nylon. Though this is better than nothing because at least I’d only be throwing away half a toothbrush each time, rather than a whole one.

2. Preserve: made from recycled plastic. They come in a reusable travel case instead of regular packaging, plus you can send them back to the manufacturer afterwards to be recycled again, into park benches and the like. This is brilliant, though I do wonder whether constant recycling is really solving the problem. But it’s a good start and it offers a lot more than your regular toothbrush. And apparently I can pop down to my local Sainsbury’s to get one; handy.

3. Wooden toothbrush: with natural bristles from "The head of each toothbrush is covered with a small piece of biodegradable plastic for hygiene reasons and secured with a paper/metal clip that is 100% recyclable," the site tells me. This seems to tick all my boxes - except they’re a whopping £9 each.

The Natural Toothbrush

Finally: jackpot! The Natural Toothbrush is literally what it says: made from the root of the Araak tree. And it resembles… well, a twig. As far as I can tell from the website, you peel off the bark and chew the ‘bristles’ inside. You don’t even need toothpaste because the fibres contain all sorts of natural nutrients. The tree it comes from is widespread in the Middle East which, theoreticall at leasty, means that taking these twigs shouldn’t cause too much undue harm.

Bron walks in while I’m looking at the website. ‘How much is it?’ he asks.


‘Cool. Get one. And get one for me, too.’

Wow, I’m gobsmacked. This’ll be one of my easiest Bron conversions yet, and tough to ignore.

‘It’ll still come in a plastic pouch, though.’ I say.

‘Of course they will. They’ve got to, for hygiene,’ he reminds me.

I know he’s right, it’s just a bit annoying. But I let impulse take hold, and click the magic button on the computer, ordering one for each of us. So much for saying I'm not prepared to clean my teeth with a twig.

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