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Our oral care routines contribute tonnes of packaging materials to landfill each year – from plastic manual toothbrushes to electric toothbrush heads. So how can we cut back on the amount of plastic we use when cleaning our teeth?
We take a look at some of the emerging alternatives to plastic toothbrushes, giving you a launching off point if you want to start reducing the amount of plastic you use.
Plus find out about the recycling schemes from Colgate and Philips that allow you to recycle your toothbrushes and oral care packaging.
Looking for ways to reduce your environmental impact? Read more on our investigation into what supermarkets are doing about plastic.
These are increasingly widely available and you should be able to find a good selection to pick from, whether you’re shopping online or on the high street.
Plenty of companies, such as Bristle, Brushbox, My Bamboo Brush and The Humble Co., offer subscription services, too, so you can have a fresh bamboo brush delivered to your door every couple of months or so.
If you’re looking to pick up a bamboo toothbrush yourself in a shop, you’ll have more luck finding them in independent health stores, or bigger shops like Holland & Barrett and Whole Foods, than you will in the major supermarkets.
But that’s beginning to change. Colgate has released its own bamboo toothbrush, which is available in most supermarkets and costs around £4 (a pack of two is currently available in Tesco for £6).
Wisdom also has a bamboo toothbrush that can be found in Boots (£3) and Wilko (£2). The Re:new Bamboo even has 100% plant-based filaments, adding to its eco-friendly credentials.
Corn starch toothbrushes
These are slowly emerging as an alternative to the increasingly popular bamboo toothbrushes, although you won’t find many companies making them just yet.
The Natural Family Co. has biodegradable and compostable children’s toothbrushes in its Jack N’ Jill range. One will set you back around £4.
Adult-sized options are sold under The Natural Family Co. brand. A pack of two costs £8 and you’ll find them online and in Boots and Holland & Barrett.
They are made from 100% cornstarch so can be composted once the nylon bristles are removed.
In addition to its bamboo toothbrush range, The Humble Co. also has toothbrushes that are 70% corn starch and 30% PP plastic. A similarly good alternative to 100% plastic toothbrushes, but these ones aren’t compostable.
Manual toothbrushes with replaceable heads
There is a growing number of manual toothbrushes with replaceable heads on the market. These allow you to keep the toothbrush handle and only replace the brush head, reducing your plastic usage and general waste.
Oral-B Clic toothbrush
The Oral-B Clic has a metallic handle, which can be kept as you swap in replaceable heads every few months. It isn’t currently widely available in the UK right now, but you will find this toothbrush, with an additional head, online for around £36. Replacement brush heads will currently set you back about £15 each.
Oral-B claims the Clic will help you reduce the amount of plastic you use by 60% over a two-year period, when the heads are replaced every three months (in comparison with a standard plastic manual toothbrush).
Colgate Link toothbrush
The Colgate Link toothbrush, with its aluminium handle, is currently around half the price of the Oral-B Clic, and also more widely available. You’ll find it at most of the major UK supermarkets for £20, with replacement brush heads costing around £3.50 each.
Colgate says that by swapping one of its standard plastic manual toothbrushes for the Link, you’ll cut plastic waste by 80%.
Launched in 2018, Barnaby’s Brushes runs with the same concept as the Oral-B Clic and the Colgate Link, but improves it with the use of replaceable bamboo brush heads instead of plastic ones.
Bamboo brush heads, with a choice of soft, medium or hard bristles, click into a sleek stainless-steel handle to create an eco-friendlier toothbrush.
It’s currently £19.50 for the first purchase (handle with brush head) and replacement heads cost £3.50. You can also sign up for the subscription service, which will deliver replacement brush heads to you every 1-3 months.
The Humble Co. toothbrush
The Humble Co. sells a number of regular bamboo toothbrushes, but among its range is one with replaceable brush heads. You can buy a bamboo handle with three bamboo brush heads for £10 in Boots.
How to recycle your plastic toothbrushes
From electric toothbrush heads and toothpaste tube to floss boxes and interdental brushes, the oral care industry is a heavy user of plastics.
Much of this still isn’t recyclable via kerbside collection, and for a long time the only option was to put most of these items in the bin.
The lack of recycling options for electric toothbrush heads has been a particular bugbear for those who’ve made the more eco-friendly switch from manual to electric toothbrushing.
Some companies, such as Brushd and Live Coco are now selling electric toothbrush heads that once finished with can be sent back to the company for recycling within its own closed-loop recycling system. You can buy heads that are compatible with Oral-B and Philips Sonicare electric toothbrushes.
But more widely accessible recycling programs that don’t require you to purchase any specific product are available.
Colgate and Philips oral care recycling initiatives
These oral care industry giants have stepped up in partnership with TerraCycle to offer recycling solutions to almost every plastic oral care product there is.
Colgate’s Oral Care Recycling Programme currently has over 740 drop-off locations where you can deposit electric toothbrush heads, toothpaste tubes, empty boxes of floss and lots more from any brand. You can’t currently recycle interdental brushes through this scheme, and there are a number of other restricted products. You can find out the full list on the website.
The Philips Dental Care Recycling Programme has 240 drop-off locations, although not all are currently accessible. Interdental brushes along with electric toothbrush heads are recyclable via this programme, but manual toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes aren’t. The full list of prohibited items is on the website.
Longer-lasting appliances are a more sustainable choice. Buy a long-lasting electric toothbrush with our Best Buy electric toothbrush reviews.