Before plastic toothbrushes were invented, people cared for their oral hygiene by chewing on aromatic sticks or by constructing a toothbrush using animal bones and swine hair.
However, in 1938, the very first nylon brush was created and people have never looked back since.
Dangers of a Plastic Toothbrush
Nowadays, the average toothbrush is typically made out of a plastic handle and nylon bristles. Inside the toothbrush head are metal staples that hold the bristles in place. For these toothbrushes to be recycled, all these materials must be separated. However, because of the small size and large quantities of toothbrushes thrown away daily, it would take too much energy to separate and recycle them. Therefore, toothbrushes are more often than not buried somewhere in a landfill or thrown into the ocean.
The plastic and nylon of these toothbrushes also come from petroleum, a non-renewable resource with an abundance of negative environmental impacts. The manufacturing of nylon creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 310 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. The process itself is very energy and water intensive that often causes runoffs that enters the water.
However, what’s most alarming is that these plastic materials can take over 400 years to decompose. The plastic waste not only greatly damages the ocean’s ecosystem, but are consumed by the sea creatures, resulting in the plastic toxins ending up on our plates.
Toothbrush Waste Numbers
Given that toothbrushes were first made in 1938 and take over 400 years to decompose, this would mean that nearly EVERY SINGLE TOOTHBRUSH since then still exists somewhere out there till this day. And even the very few that do get recycled, can only be recycled maximum once or twice before being thrown out out there as well.