It is estimated that we use nearly 5 billion toothbrushes a year. The danger caused by plastic keeps increasing at an exponential rate. A lot of these toothbrushes are made of plastics. They end up causing a major source of pollution because they do not get broken down. Thankfully, bamboo toothbrushes have emerged as a healthy alternative for the environment.
Not many know that bamboo toothbrushes have been used for many centuries. But in the last couple of years, their popularity has increased at an exponential rate. This is to the extent that it is no longer uncommon to find one in your local supermarket.
Although you might be surprised, bamboo toothbrushes are exactly what their name implies. They are toothbrushes whose handles are made entirely from bamboo. So, what is bamboo, and what type of bamboo is used to produce these toothbrushes?
What is bamboo?
Bamboo is a natural material. It is, in fact, said to be the fastest-growing plant on earth. It has a far smaller ecological footprint when compared to plastic. This is because bamboo grows quickly. The growth measures up to about 4 feet each day, replacing those that were cut down.
Bamboo does not require fertilizers or pesticides for its growth. The ones used for producing the toothbrushes are wild and 100% organic.
Unlike man-made plastics, bamboo is 100% biodegradable, especially when used in its raw form. For this singular reason, it has become a choice material for several applications. Most importantly, for toothbrushes as well.
The giant Moso bamboo
The bamboo used for producing the toothbrushes is wild and 100% organic. The type that is used by many of the toothbrush manufacturers is the Giant Moso bamboo. It is native to the mountains of the Fenghua district in the Zhejiang province of Southeast China.
It can also be found in Taiwan, as well as in some places in Japan. The Moso bamboo can grow to a height of 92 feet (around 28m). They are also used in several other applications. This includes in the bamboo textile industry and for manufacturing rayon.
They grow rapidly at the top and middle of the mountains. The region is suited for the ideal growth of bamboo. This is because of the presence of the right amounts of sunlight and rain. Thus, they can grow organically. This means without pesticides and fertilizers.
The giant Moso bamboo is the largest of the hardy bamboo. It is also one of the most beautiful ones. Its culms are very large. The fact that they are surrounded by very small leaves makes them look even larger.
The culms of a fully grown plant are very wide. They are close to the root, and decrease as they go upwards. Culms just growing from the root have soft hair on them. This hair serves to protect them from insect infestation.
The Moso bamboo is unique to any other type of bamboo. A groove containing only mature Moso bamboo can be a breathtaking sight to behold. The leaves of a mature plant start at 40 feet from the base.
Moso shoots are eaten. It is the bamboo shoot that is exported the most from China. The fresh shoots are said to be very delicious. The shoots grow early and can be uprooted even during winter.
How are bamboo toothbrushes produced?
Manufacturing bamboo toothbrushes from the plant itself involves a number of steps that must be followed carefully to ensure that the desired result is obtained.
- Harvesting of the bamboo
The bamboo to be used is cut into fixed lengths of about 120 cm, 160 cm, or 200 cm each. Each cane is split further, and the surface is smoothened. The bamboo is then carbonized at high temperatures to remove impurities.
Afterward, the sugar is evaporated. During these processes, it will be seen that the bamboo becomes darker. It is then dried.
- Shaping the handles of the toothbrushes
The next set of processes involves getting the toothbrushes into shape. First, the bamboo is cut into the right lengths for each toothbrush. Then it is put into the machine that will finish the front, back, and sides. After that, it is polished, and holes are made in the handles.
- Tufting and customization
Bristles are added to the finished toothbrush handles. Bamboo toothbrushes use pressure to add the bristles instead of glue so that they can be separated for recycling. The logo and name of the manufacturer are then engraved on the brushes.
- Shipping and packaging
Most bamboo toothbrushes are shipped with 100% paper packaging. Unlike the plastic wrappings that regular toothbrushes come in. This way, they can make sure that the product is eco-friendly from start to finish. Like the bamboo handle, the paper is completely biodegradable. This makes the entire package easily biodegradable.
What are the bristles made of?
Before civilization, the bristle of bamboo toothbrushes was made from natural products like the hair of a boar. And now that the bamboo toothbrushes are back into fashion now, bristle material varies. This variation is a choice that differs from one manufacturer to another. Many still use the same nylon bristles that are used in regular plastic toothbrushes. Others use nylon-4 and nylon-6 bristles infused with bamboo charcoal.
Some manufacturers are pushing for fully biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes. They hereby produce natural bristles that are made using pig or badger hair. However, that is not generally accepted for use by many, especially vegetarians. Also, dentists claim that these bristles are too hard and can cause injury to the gums. This contributes to why it is not yet widely used as a bristle material.
The bamboo toothbrush has no special way of using or caring for it. You can use it in the same way that you would use a plastic toothbrush. The methods for taking care of it are also identical. The only major difference is how much pollution they can cause to the environment. This implies that if you are really worried about the environment and pollution. Then, you should definitely consider choosing a bamboo toothbrush over regular plastic toothbrushes.