Looking for a Toothbrush

I need a new toothbrush and even before doing a general Google search for a plastic-free option, I check out http://www.myplasticfreelife.com where Beth Terry has amassed an enormous amount of information about avoiding plastic. Sure enough, she has a post from May of last year where she looks at several options that don’t all necessarily fit into the plastic-free category, but they are definitely not your normal CVS variety.

One toothbrush is made from post-consumer plastic and is wholly recyclable (it even comes with a sleeve that will allow you to mail the toothbrush back to Massachusetts – the toothbrush’s state of origin). Yeah, they get to be plasitc lumber in the next life, but ummmm… plastic?  Trying to stay away from that, Beth.

Another brush has a wood body, but has Nylon 4 bristles. A study claims that Nylon 4 will biodegrade in 4 months in soil with active sludge or something like that.  Not sure what active sludge is, but I can hardly get my compost to wholly biodegrade in our backyard so I’m pretty sure that the Nylon 4 is going to last more than 4 months around here.  Besides, this brush comes from Australia. While Australia is no China, and from what I remember a pretty good place for a worker to live, that’s a long way for a toothbrush to travel. Beth also says that this brush comes in a plastic sleeve.  Yikes!

The third option is also a brush with a wooden body, but instead of plastic bristles, it boasts bristles that are made entirely from natural fibers. And what fibers might those be? This un-vegan-friendly brush is made with pig hairs harvested from meat pigs in China. The hairs are only going to go in the bin anyway, might as well put them to good use. Gross.  Almost as gross as Haggis. Can’t do it. This is also one well-traveled toothbrush.  The pig hairs travel from China to Germany where they are united with the wood handle and then they make their way to you via the livewithoutplastic.com people who are in Quebec, but have a warehouse in New York.

It looks like as far as toothbrushes go, there isn’t a perfect option if one is trying to go plastic-free.  Beth Terry, the goddess of plastic-free, goes with the first option. As a product that is from the Northeast, it doesn’t take much to get it to me here in Lancaster and I like that component. And while the use of the toothbrush doesn’t mean that there is less of a demand for plastic on the planet, borrowing a bit of plastic as it transitions from one thing (yogurt containers) to another thing (plastic lumber) sounds okay. Plus, if Beth Terry says it’s okay, it must be okay. Okay?



3 responses to “Looking for a Toothbrush

  1. I use that toothbrush as well.. They also make razors. Another nice aspect if those is that they aren’t tested on animals. Good luck on your endeavor!

  2. Susan Mitchell

    My Somali friends swear by the Muswaki. I bought one but haven’t tried it yet. Not sure if you can find one made locally rather than imported (and I’m not sure of the size of the Somali community in Lancaster PA). I’ll mail you one if you want to give it a try. This is from ethnomed.org:

    Somalis do not use toothbrushes, they use a stick collected from the branches of a tree called “Roomay” found in Somalia, or a stick called “Muswaki” made from the root of another type of tree. Both types of sticks can be found in the U.S. in Somali grocery stores and shops. A stick is soaked in water for twenty-four hours to soften the wood, and the end is chewed to create fiber bristles. This is used at least twice a day to clean the teeth and tongue and is replaced as often as every week, when affordable. The stick starts out with a length of approximately 6-8 inches and can be used until it has run down to just a couple inches and then it is replaced. Ashes and wood charcoal, derived from tree burning, are also rubbed on the teeth to whiten them. Most Somalis do not use dental floss. Toothpicks are used to pick meat out of teeth.

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