Brush The Plastic Out

Edited By: Aneesha Chandra (UG 21)


While driving on the Kalindi Kunj Bridge, my friend noticed the froth and plastic floating over the dirty water on either side of the bridge. Instead of looking like a beautiful river  with fresh glistening water, the Yamuna looked like stale, stagnant water underneath a pile of trash that had been forgotten by someone behind their house. She told me that she asked her mother to stop the car on the side and took a gander at all the plastic and chemical-induced froth floating on the water of the now-infamous Yamuna. As we talked, we started discussing sustainable alternatives for plastic commodities that are used everyday universally. From wooden cutlery to mesh bags to glass bottles to compost garbage bags — we spoke about everything at length. Then, I realised that we had not mentioned bamboo toothbrushes even once. 


            Just like plastic straws, plastic toothbrushes are a pain not only for the turtles, but also for our entire environment. Unlike a plastic toothbrush, which takes upto 400 years to incompletely decompose, a bamboo toothbrush  decomposes in about 4 months. If we listen to the advice of dentists and manufacturers on plastic toothbrushes, we would end up disposing of them every three months. On the other hand, if we switch to bamboo toothbrushes, the bristles can be reused while the bamboo stick can be disposed of properly so that decomposition takes place quickly. If everyone were to listen to the American Dental Association, about 23 million toothbrushes would be disposed of annually. This would create about 1,265 million pounds of plastic waste, which  does not include the waste produced by electric toothbrushes and its batteries. 


There is a high risk of plastic toothbrushes ending up in water bodies. The negative implications and consequences of just that on all forms of life (especially marine life) have proven to be enough to turn several environmentalists into advocates for bamboo toothbrushes. Even when buying plastic toothbrushes, the least one can do is check if the bristles have been made of recyclable or biodegradable plastics. 


A plastic toothbrush is made up of two non-compostable and indestructible polymers: nylon and polypropylene. Since they can never be decomposed, all of the plastic brushes that have been manufactured till now are still present in some water bodies and landfills. If we use bamboo toothbrushes, the plastic waste produced annually can be reduced, one step at a time. Their production will be relatively easy since bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on Earth. A few types of bamboo do not even require any inputs, which prevents any damage from chemicals, over-irrigation, or fertilisers. 


Several bamboo toothbrush companies manufacture toothbrushes which are 100% biodegradable. This is one of the steps we can take, individually, to reduce the generation of plastic waste.