I jumped on the bamboo toothbrush train right away – and chances are, if you’re reading this, either you did too, or you’re about to buy your ticket.
About 1 billion toothbrushes are tossed each year – and since I trade mine out every 3-4 months, that means for a really long time, I was contributing 3 or 4 toothbrushes to mount plastic annually… I don’t math well, but at 42 – I’ve probably subjected the earth to over a hundred plastic plaque pluckers in my life.
Being that all of the plastic toothbrushes ever used still live on this earth somewhere, that doesn’t make me feel so great.
So a couple of years ago, I started using bamboo toothbrushes, and while there was an adjustment period because the bristles felt a little different, I’m never turning back.
Bamboo toothbrush bristles are typically made of plastic – most of no 9 nylon – which, much like your plastic toothbrush – they won’t compost. The toothbrush bristles are the only thing wrong with a bamboo toothbrush, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still get to zero waste using one.
How to compost your bamboo toothbrush
Pluck those bristles or pop the head
A lot of people will tell you to just pop the head off and toss it, but there’s a way you can scootch closer to zero waste – take pliers and pluck the bristles out – it only takes about 5 minutes – and then recycle them in a plastic only recycling bin (they probably won’t get recycled if you throw them out curbside).
Break it into smaller pieces
Just like a banana peel or any other material you plan to compost, we can give it a little nudge of help by breaking it down into smaller pieces for the earth to absorb. You can use a hand saw or a hammer to help with this step.
Put it into your compost bin
Any compostable material is only compostable under the right conditions. Don’t toss your bamboo toothbrush into a plastic garbage bag and hope for the best. It needs everything your backyard compost needs to break down. Toss the pieces into your compost bin – and if you’re not that far down the zero-waste path yet, then just bury it outside in warm, moist soil.
How long does it take for a bamboo toothbrush to compost?
If you’ve plucked the bristles, broken it down into smaller bits, and buried it in your compost bin or warm moist soil, you can expect your toothbrush to return to earth in about 4 months.
I like to extend the life of my bamboo toothbrushes by giving them a second life before composting them – this varies from using it to clean tricky spots like between my sink faucets and to dust my keyboard. A quick boil makes it sterile and ready to use for something else.
One of the highlights to me of grabbing a bamboo toothbrush is that 100% of the time I’ve purchased one, it’s come in earth-friendly packaging – usually, a small, compostable cardboard box which hands down beats the plastic overwrap of a traditional toothbrush any day of the week.