How eco-friendly is your toothbrush?

We put the eco-friendly credentials of different types of toothbrushes to the test; here's what we found

eco-friendly toothbrush
(Image credit: Unsplash)

Can a toothbrush really be eco-friendly? That's a good question that doesn't have an easy answer. After all, the priority for anyone buying a toothbrush is to look after their teeth (not really replaceable, so a good toothbrush is non negotiable). 

And yet, the majority of toothbrushes are really, very bad for the environment. The US alone throws away one billion toothbrushes are year, the vast majority of them made from plastic that does not biodegrade and ends up in our oceans. 

bamboo toothbrushes

(Image credit: Unsplash)

The solution? Many people have heard of bamboo toothbrushes by now, and they are a better choice than plastic because bamboo does biodegrade. it's a different matter with the nylon bristles, which do not biodegrade, but at least the handle isn't made from plastic. 

We'll be honest, though, and say that bamboo toothbrushes don't always deliver the very best brushing experience. Like ordinary toothbrushes, they come with the potential problems of over brushing and not removing plaque properly in hard-to-reach area due to bristles that are the same length and/or the shape of the brush. 

In fact, this particular RealHomes team member was explicitly told by her dentist that the bamboo toothbrush just wasn't cutting it, and switching to an electric toothbrush would be a good idea.

Live Coco recyclable toothbrush head

(Image credit: Amazon/Live Coco)

So, I bought an electric toothbrush the same day, without really thinking about the longer-term environmental impact. The familiar narrative around electric toothbrushes is that they're actually more eco-friendly because you're only replacing the heads. 

The question is, where do the heads end up, given that they can't be recycled? Yep, same place as all other toothbrushes. It turns out that there is a solution, though:  a company that manufactures Oral-B compatible toothbrush heads that has its own closed-loop recycling scheme, meaning that they will recycle the heads themselves if you return them after you're done with them. That's so much better than just saying that the heads can be recycled – you can be sure that they actually will get recycled.

Live Coco sell and recycle in both US and UK; you can also buy their heads on Amazon. Also, while their toothbrush heads are currently medium firmness, they're also working on a soft version. We'll definitely be comparing the two when the soft ones are available.