Tag Archive for waste reduction

Clean teeth, green teeth

I am constantly amazed by how many plastic toothbrushes must be rotting (or, more to the point, not rotting) in landfill sites around the globe. If you think of the nearly 350 million people in the US and Canada alone and consider that they probably get through an average of 3 toothbrushes per year, that is over a billion toothbrushes, with ever larger plastic handles, tossed in the garbage annually. (After all, there is a limit to how many you can repurpose as household cleaning brushes.) And then there are all those irritating blister packs to boot.

I use an electric toothbrush a good deal of the time…not a single use one but one that can be charged about once a week (I do remember to unplug the charger when not in use). At least with these you only replace about half a toothbrush, instead of a whole handle. But, I admit, I am using electricity when I don’t strictly need to. It’s just that I have a habit of brushing away my enamel when I use a regular toothbrush.

small terradent

The rest of my family – and me when I travel – use toothbrushes with replaceable heads. It still perplexes me why the mainstream manufacturers have not caught on to this simple way to save plastics: I hope it is only a matter of time before they do.

In the meantime, there are two main replaceable-head brands available in north America, Fuchs and Eco-dent. It turns out that they are both made in Germany and that they have the same US distributor. Although different in size and shape, I find they both work equally well. Eco-dent’s replaceable head brushes are sold under the name Terradent. The heads are traditionally shaped, with tapered tops and bottom and come in both adult and kid sizes. Fuchs EcoTek brushes are more rectangular and compact and have a more angled handle which I like. Replacement heads for both brushes are available in either soft or medium.

small fuchs

Replacing the heads is very simple (pop them out with the help of a strong thumb or a pen or something) and you can use the old head to scrub around and clean up the handle while you are about it. I have never had either brush wobble or feel precarious while in use, so there really is no difference between these and regular toothbrushes, except when you hear a light click as opposed to a dull thud as the waste plastic hits the garbage can.

Many health stores and on-line sites stock both brands of brushes; costs are about the same as regular toothbrushes. If you want to compare, iherb.com sells both Fuchs and Eco-dent toothbrushes at great prices (less than $4 for a brush with one extra head). The site also has good shipping rates to both the US and Canada, but I have not used it myself.

Finally, I have just ordered some environmental toothbrushes, made from bamboo and biodegradable polymers from Australia. These brushes are entirely compostable and have great reviews. They are available in Canada (for example at My Little Green Shop and Acorn eco-store), and can also be ordered in boxes of 12 for $36 plus international shipping of $12, directly from Australia. I will let you know how they work out.

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