The Truth About Your Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrush


following is an extract from My Plastic – Free Life. go here for full original article.

There’s no perfect toothbrush, but some toothbrushes are less perfect than others, and sadly, a few of them aren’t even what they claim to be.  Here are a few disappointing facts I have learned recently about other companies’ toothbrushes.  

Fully Compostable = Animal-Based

Right now, the only completely compostable toothbrush has a handle made from sustainably harvested wood and bristles made from pig hair.  (Here’s an example.)  The pig hair is a by-product of the Chinese meat industry.  It would normally have been thrown away.  If you eat meat, perhaps this toothbrush would be the right decision for you.  I personally have chosen not to use it because the only meat I eat comes from humanely raised animals from local farms in Sonoma or Marin Counties.  Since I don’t know how the Chinese pigs are treated, I don’t feel comfortable using their bristles for a toothbrush.  Perhaps one of the local pig farms out here could team up with a toothbrush manufacturer to develop a toothbrush I’d be more likely to trust.

What About Nylon-4?

Several toothbrush manufacturers claim that their bristles are made from Nylon-4, a petroleum-based plastic that has been shown in lab studies to biodegrade in the environment under certain conditions.  However, lab studies and real life are not the same things, and none of these manufacturers has provided any third-party proof that their toothbrush bristles actually will biodegrade, especially not in the cold waters of the ocean.  Furthermore, it is questionable whether all of them really contain Nylon-4 in the first place.

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3 responses »

  1. I’d personally feel better about using a brush made with boar bristle than with nylon, especially knowing (presumably) that the animals are being slaughtered for meat anyway and they’re not just being killed for their hair. I do eat meat but take care to know where and how the animal it came from was raised, and while I would like to know that these were raised humanely sometimes we have to just go with what we do know and hope for the best. There is a lot of humanely-raised, pastured pork in the U.S. (including what I buy), so we could also write these companies and ask them what they do with the skin and hair when their pigs are slaughtered. Who knows – maybe someone will start making wood/boar bristle toothbrushes here in the U.S.! In any case as the choice is between using an animal product and adding more plastics to our landfills, I’ll choose the former. I realize it’s a personal decision but I feel the damage overall is less this way.


    • reading your post was like reading what i would have written. cheers terry. i have always loved boar bristle toothbrushes. now, being vegan, i really really wanted so much to find an alternative. and i did! i now use a stick. but i will always keep my bristle toothrush. it feels so good on the gums and teeth and tongue.

      yes, i wish someone would startup a humane boar bristle gathering business.
      i have not been able to find evidence for one anywhere.


      • I have learned upon further research that the bristles come from a specific breed of pig that is only raised in China. I haven’t been able to determine if this is actually true, but If it is then China holds the monopoly on this commodity. You’d think someone would start raising these pigs elsewhere, but it could be that the country has such a stranglehold on exports that it can’t be done.

        Another idea I’ve thought of for a biodegradable toothbrush…What about sea sponge? I wonder what effect this would have on the teeth and gums? It’s not vegan of course but it’s at least as humane as boar bristle, if not more so. It’s renewable, and biodegradable. From what I understand it’s mainly comprised of calcium carbonate (like corals), so this could have a gentle, scouring effect on the teeth, like baking soda. A small piece of sponge may not last long, so there would need to be a way to attach a new piece to a stick. I use sea sponges for cleaning and in the shower so I may sanitize a small piece and try it when one falls apart.


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