Review – The Humble Bamboo Toothbrush

November 21, 2018 0 By Peter and Caira

The Humble Brush

Plastic Bottles and Plastic Bags tend to be the first thing people think of when it comes to plastic waste.  But what about Toothbrushes? An estimated 1 billion toothbrushes are created a year in the US alone.  Due to the volume being created, recycling all these toothbrushes is a huge challenge.  Yes, Colgate has attempted to address this issue through toothbrush recycling programmes in various locations globally, however, to outrightly avoid the plastic-cycle, the answer is to use less. Or, as a better option, use none at all.

As a family of 4, we use approximately 16 toothbrushes a year between us.  That said, with the the girls being, how do I say, a tad over zealous with their chewing and under-skilled at their brushing, we probably purchase closer to twenty toothbrushes. Based on the this, we reviewed our habits and searched for a local store that produced one the famous bamboo toothbrushes.  Welcome, The Humble Bamboo Toothbrush.  We’ve used this for a number of months now and feel we can offer a comparative view.

The Product

The anti-plastic, Humble bamboo toothbrush comes with nice recyclable packaging and is available in both adult and child sizes, in addition to many different colours. The handles are made from bamboo and the bristles are made from nylon. Nylon isn’t so easy to recycle but we’ll get to that later.  Whilst a bit sceptical at first, they actually look and feel really good to use. It doesn’t feel like you’re compromising on either quality or style.

Bamboo Toothbrush

We’re going to make the assumption that anyone reading this has used a toothbrush before, we’ll therefore skip the step-by-step instructions on how they work :), but what we can show you is how they stand the test of time.

New vs 3 Month Old Brush

As you will see from our image, the body of the toothbrush lost some colour, but the bristles are fairly intact. And before you ask, yes I do brush twice a day 🙂 . I use the soft toothbrush but they do also come in medium for adults, in addition to ultra-soft for children. Okay, so the price is a bit more expensive than what we would pay for its plastic counterpart, and there is a bit of additional care in that we are mindful to dry the handle on a towel after each use (or thereabouts), to maintain the condition longer, and there is a bit of consideration in the disposal (see below), but overall, they are sturdy and sustainable. It’s just like using a normal toothbrush, which admittedly isn’t a headline grabbing review, but it is a big compliment.  We’ve not looked back since we started using them.

How to dispose of them at home

First of all, whilst it’s great not to use plastic, the job isn’t quite done by just using a bamboo toothbrush. It can’t go in the recycling. And placing it in the normal household waste collection (and therefore a landfill) will do no good either. Bamboo will only breakdown in the right conditions.  Luckily the answer can be very close to home. Bamboo needs the right conditions to breakdown. Since the ideal condition is other compost and bio matter, we looked at using it in our garden.

Just in case no one knows what an orange tree looks like

To achieve this, first of all you need to remove the bristles. This takes less than 2 minutes with some decent pliers (or try nail clippers if you are on the road).  Most curbside recycling won’t want Nylon, and if they did, they’re so small that they’ll likely do more damage than good. Unfortunately, they may need to go in the bin until there’s a better solution. It’s a shame, but it’s still better than a normal toothbrush

Using a simple Sharpie Pen we used the bamboo handles to label the plants and trees around our house, so that the tenants moving in would know what we have growing on our property. Now, in hindsight, we should have chosen the more complex tree and plants (Feijoas for example) to label, rather than the more obvious Orange and Lemon Trees. But as a colourblind guy, how am I to know if it’s a lemon or a lime?

Eventually these will breakdown. Not overnight, but they will at least have a purpose in the meantime.

How to dispose of them whilst travelling

Since not everyone you meet on your travels wants their plants labelled, you have to be more creative on the road. The first, and most easy way, is to keep hold of them until you’re home if you can.

If you’re not home anytime soon, you’ll want to dispose of them sooner rather than carry around in your bag. Firstly, you need to break the bamboo down as small as you can, by any means possible. This enables the bamboo to break down quicker. Next you need to find somewhere for it to be composted. If you’re staying in a hostel or farm-stay this should be easy. Don’t forget to always ask the owners permission (maybe don’t tell them it’s your old toothbrush though – it’s not the most appealing offer in the world).

Conclusion

It is a shame the bristles aren’t the easiest to dispose of responsibly (there are some brushes out there that use pig hair, but that comes with it’s own problems). Still, it’s a huge step forward to a plastic free world.  Overall, we genuinely love them. They’re sturdy, they’re sustainable and they’re cool.  In fact, you could say we are humbled by our new brushes!

As an update, we have now been using bamboo toothbrushes for over six months and continue to stick by our words above.  They really are far more pleasant than using plastic ones, and when I see the plastic toothbrushes provided in Airbnb’s/homestays, I realise that the plastic ones really are pretty ghastly.  Once you go bamboo, you never go back.  What would be nice now, is to see a fully compostable toothbrush, bristles and all, which I believe OLA Bamboo are working on.