The humble toothbrush. A simple invention that has revolutionized oral hygiene around the world. In the form we know it today, the very first toothbrushes were attributed to 7th century China, crafted from bone or bamboo with hog hair bristles—they certainly weren’t vegan, but they were definitely zero-waste!
However, with the invention of plastics in the 20th century, like so many other products that have become necessities in the modern world, we created a monster. Today, around a billion plastic toothbrushes are trashed in the US annually, and while there are ways they can be recycled through vendors like Terracycle, simply throwing your toothbrush in with your plastic recyclables is not an option today. If you place your toothbrush in with your recyclables, they’ll be sorted as trash at the recycling facility
You can, of course, repurpose your old toothbrushes for all kinds of things, but since you’re advised to replace them every three months, that pile of old non-biodegradable toothbrushes can very quickly mount up. Additionally, recycling your toothbrush is possible if you have the time and inclination, and a few major brands now offer mail-back programs.
However, a quick glance at the zero-waste hierarchy tells us that there has to be a better way. So, put down those plastic oral hygiene tools and say hello to the best zero-waste toothbrushes around. Read on to discover our favorite eco-friendly toothbrushes and give your zero-waste lifestyle a minty-fresh boost.
Brush with bamboo — Best plant-based zero-waste bamboo toothbrush
The Brush with Bamboo Adult Toothbrush is one of the few entirely plant-based brushes on the market, and one of the best zero-waste toothbrushes for anyone trying to cut down on plastic at home. Featuring a bamboo handle and soft bristles manufactured from castor bean bioplastic, it’s 100% natural and Green American Certified. There’s also a children’s version available to make sure the kids can start their zero-waste journey early.
The brush is shipped in paper, with no tape or glue to gum up those recycling machines or ruin your compost pile. Additionally, it’s available as a one-time purchase or as part of a subscription package—meaning you’ll never forget to replace your toothbrush again.
Brush Naked Brush — Best bulk buy zero-waste toothbrush
Although the Brush Naked Toothbrush features a 100% bamboo handle, the bristles of this wooden toothbrush are made from BPA-free DuPont nylon. Certain types of nylon (nylon-4) have been shown to be biodegradable in lab conditions, however, this claim is untested in the real-world and either way, it still takes many years to break down and has the potential to generate microplastics. In the end, any brush made with petroleum-based materials is not 100% zero waste. Be sure to check with your local composter or organics recycling vendor to see if you can include these handles in your organics program.
That being said, the brushes are available in packs sizes of up to 12, with all the brushes shipped in a single box to save packaging. This means they’re among the best zero-waste brushes for bulk buyers, and if the brush is not 100% recyclable, the packaging definitely is.
Life Without Plastic Brush — Best zero-waste toothbrushes for the family
If you’re looking for a sustainable toothbrush set that’s plastic-free and made for the whole family, then look no further than the Life Without Plastic dental hygiene kit. Featuring four adult brushes (bamboo with boar bristles) and two kids brushes (beechwood with pig hair bristles) plus four spools of 100% natural dental floss, you’ll find everything you need to keep everyone’s teeth looking great.
They are shipped in 100% recyclable packaging (card and cellulose), and there’s a free refillable jar included for your zero-waste store-bought or homemade toothpaste too.
Neem Chew Sticks — The best natural zero-waste oral care
Long before toothbrushes became the norm, people were keeping their teeth clean and their mouths healthy using “chew sticks”. Today, this ancient technology is seeing something of a resurgence, and using a chew stick in lieu of a toothbrush is about as zero waste as you can get! Plus, they’re perfect for composting at home, and they’re 100% waste free since there’s no manufacturing process behind them.
These neem chew sticks from Neem Tree Farms are essentially just small twigs taken from a neem tree, however, the naturally antibacterial properties of the tree has been shown to be as good if not better than standard brush and toothpaste techniques. The only resources used to make the sticks is growing the tree itself, and they come packaged in a simple paper bag for the ultimate in recyclability.
SWAK Toothbrush — The best reusable zero-waste toothbrush
The SWAK takes a different approach to circularity by combining a bio-plastic handle with a replaceable miswak wood head—making it one of the best zero-waste toothbrushes for anyone who prefers a more durable kit. The head is 100% biodegradable and the handle, made using GMO-free sugars, is beautifully tactile and contoured to fit your hand.
It’s packaged in a cardboard box which is also used to mail the brush, and the replaceable heads are available in packs of three to nine. The company also has a huge range of other natural oral hygiene products such as dental floss, tooth salts, and even organic licorice chew sticks.
Preserve Toothbrush — The best recycled plastic zero-waste toothbrush
Another way to ensure your bathroom is zero waste is to use recycled materials wherever possible. Luckily for you, the Preserve Toothbrush is made from 100% recycled plastics (albeit with new nylon bristles) and it comes shipped in a lightweight pouch that you can use to keep your toothbrush safe while you travel.
The best part of this brush, however, is that Preserve developed the Gimme 5 Toothbrush Take Back program, not only recycling their own brushes, but also offering recycling services for any polypropylene brush. This means you can mail back your brush, or drop them in a Gimme 5 bin at Whole Foods, for recycling, helping to promote the circular economy, contribuite to the manufacture new toothbrushes, and also keep plastics out of landfill.
Be. Toothbrush — Best eco-friendly powered zero-waste toothbrush
If you simply can’t give up your electric toothbrush, then why not try the Be. brush. Be. Is the world’s first non-electric powered toothbrush, using a spring to deliver the same power as your standard electric brush—simply twist the bottom of the unit a few times and the motor “springs” into life!
Like any normal electric brush, the toothbrush heads are fully interchangeable with nylon-4 charcoal bristles, while the handle is designed to last a decade and is fully recyclable after that period. Cardboard and paper packaging round off the list of eco features, and the fact that there are no electronics or batteries means no e-waste, meaning this powered toothbrush a top zero-waste contender!
There are many toothbrush options around today that claim to be zero waste, however, the issues surrounding nylon bristles and can make certain brands instantly look less sustainable. The best bamboo brushes also use natural or fully biodegradable bristles alongside sustainable bamboo, while recycled plastic brushes also have their part to play in the zero-waste landscape—at least for as long as there’s plenty of waste plastic to process!
In the end, whichever model you choose, make sure that it can be recycled or composted efficiently at the end of its lifecyle or, even better, keep it in use to clean those difficult to reach areas in your bathroom!
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