Green Energy Times Staff Article
A Vermont start-up company, Wood Brush, is taking on the problem of plastics in landfills by offering each of us a better solution. After two years research and development, the Wood Brush Company is ready to begin production of high quality toothbrushes with a much-reduced environmental impact. The first product will be a toothbrush called “The Natural.”
Michael F. Kane, a sustainability entrepreneur and Wood Brush’s founder, has worked with both the dental industry and Maple Land Mark, a Vermont-based wood toy manufacturer, to develop the world’s best natural toothbrush.
Wood Brush will employ a local workforce in Vermont, and will use local natural resources for 98% of the product. The toothbrush has a handle made from sugar maple and the bristles are BPA-free.
The plastic toothbrush industry produces 3.5 billion toothbrushes annually. Dentists recommend individuals get a new toothbrush every three months. Following this recommendation, a household of four throws out sixteen toothbrushes every year.
Nearly all of these toothbrushes are made of plastic, but almost none can be recycled. The problem is that the plastics that work for handles require one set of characteristics and those for the bristles have a different set; toothbrushes are made of plastics that cannot be recycled together. The result is that nearly all of them properly go to landfills when they are disposed of. This is approximately 200 million pounds of plastic per year.
Addressing this problem is somewhat complicated by a need to accomplish two different things at once. It is not enough just to reduce the amount of plastic used. We need to do that without compromising oral health.
By using hardwood for the handle, 98% of the plastic in a toothbrush is replaced by a renewable, compostable material. Having it locally-sourced means that Wood Brush has much more control over the sustainability and quality of the materials than would be achievable using such imported materials as bamboo. The handles may have natural coatings or be just plain wood.
In a worst case for proper disposal, the Wood Brush toothbrush goes to the landfill, just as plastic ones do. Unlike the plastic toothbrushes, however, 98% of the Wood Brush toothbrush will decompose naturally. Alternatively, the head can be cut off and sent to the landfill, while the handle is re-purposed, burned, or composted.
Wood Brush will continue to use a special, BPA-free, dental-grade nylon for bristles at present. Kane’s research found no material on the market that is superior to it for dental hygiene. He is, however, continuing research on delivering a vegetable-based fiber bristle, and he has hopes of achieving that goal in the near future. With that, the toothbrushes would be 100% free of plastics.
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