Zero waste toothbrushes

Filed in Blog by on August 4, 2010 27 Comments
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Mrs Green shows off her wooden toothbrush

Mrs Green shows off her wooden toothbrush

Brushing your teeth without creating waste is a pretty tricky business. There are plastic toothbrushes in clamshell packaging, toothpaste tubes made from composite materials, floss made from nylon (I think?) in plastic containers and all sorts of pills, potions and gargles to keep your breath smelling sweet.

Fortunately, we’ve found a solution to toothpaste tubes. Along with crisp packets, these can be sent to the Philippine Community Fund where they are made into fabulous recycled bags and help lift some of the poorest Filipino communities from poverty.For toothbrushes there are several options to help reduce the amount of waste you put into landfill.

Wooden toothbrushes

We’re now using wooden toothbrushes from Cebra.  The bristles are made from natural bristles rather than nylon and after use you can compost the toothbrush or put them on a woodburner.

Sabine,  who runs Cebra takes her environmental sustainability seriously. Even the packaging which protects the toothbrush head is biodegradable cellophane which is held in place with a fully recyclable clip.

The bristles are made from boar hair and the pigs are special long haired ones being kept outdoors just like in ancient times. Also, they are not slaughtered for their meat as they are far too valuable.


Preserve have developed toothbrushes made with 100% recycled handles made from yogurt cartons.  They say the toothbrushes and cases are completely recyclable, but I’m not sure how we would do that in the UK at the moment.

By using Preserve, you are helping close the loop and creating a demand for recycled products.

Buy Preserve toothbrushes from Male Organics.


By using a Monte Bianco toothbrush, you only need attach a replaceable head onto a reusable toothbrush handle. This helps to reduce plastic waste in the landfill.

You can buy a range of Monte Bianco toothbrushes, including children’s from Natural Collection.


Mr Green has an electric toothbrush, and apparently after use he can put the whole lot into WEEE recycling.  I don’t quite understand this as the majority of it is plastic, but I guess they take all salvageable parts from it for reuse or recycling.

What about you? Have you found another solution to brushing your teeth without creating landfill waste? Dentures perhaps…

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (27)

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  1. John Costigane says:

    Wooden toothbrushes are an excellent alternative to the plastic type, Mrs Green. Having used them for a while, there is zero chance of using the other type again. Apart from the waste aspect, they are also more versatile beyond their main use. The wooden brush head can be easily trimmed to access difficult areas like sink/bath drains where used plastic ones cannot go. Wood shavings can be put in the kitchen caddy for composting. The only negative is the unweighable plastic wrap which has a negligible impact on waste totals. The best way to end plastic waste end results is, as ever, to find better alternatives, and for consumers to buy them.

  2. Karen says:

    I continue to use our old brushes for little cleaning jobs. For example jewellery, hard to get into parts of the car, around taps and drains, grouting, cleaning silver and copper and many more. It is the unnecessary packaging that annoys me. Why so much protective packaging when they are very sturdy. My cleaning brushes last for years. Why can’t they be sold without the packaging ?

  3. Karin says:

    I bought our Preserve toothbrushes from Sainsbury’s!

  4. MissG says:

    Directions to make a toothbrush holder out of your old toothpaste tubes.

  5. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, great news that you are finding the wooden toothbrushes work for you after a while of trialling them.

    @Karen: I guess with the packaging, manufacturers (and most customers) wouldn’t want to put something into their mouth that a thousand other people could have touched.

    @Karin: Sainsburys? Great; I never knew that about the Preserve range; I thought they were only available in the US

    @MissG: HA! brilliant; what a cute idea 🙂

  6. Karen says:

    The brush end could be covered with compostable paper

  7. Sabine says:

    @John Costigane:

    Hello John

    The wrapping isn’t plastic – it’s cellophane made from corn starch and fully bio degradable.

    Glad you like the brushes and that they work for you.

    Kind regards

  8. Sabine says:

    Hi Karen

    I looked into the Preserve range and whilst I think we have to do everything possible to reduce plastic consumption and plastic waste and applaud the Preserve principle, I don’t fancy anything that is recycled but then not properly taken care of when it comes to the end of its life. The distributor over here says they take the brushes back – you have to send back 10 at a time. Which leaves the question: what about the carbon output the return postage creates? And are they really saying they return thousands of brushes back to USA for recycling? Absurd to say the least. Why can’t they recycle them in situ?


  9. Kella says:

    This is a great post, thanks for all the useful links. Like mentioned before we also reuse our spent toothbrushes to clean other things that are too small or have small parts long after we finish using them in our mouths.

    But here is another reusable idea, how about wearing them, my girls love when i turn their toothbrushes into jewellery:

  10. John Costigane says:

    @Sabine: Hi Sabine,

    Biodegradable items are landfilled as waste and are therefore a form of waste. There have been some false dawns in newer synthetic materials which cannot be composted at home. Biodegradables are in this category alongside newer compostable plastics, which require specialised composting. From the Zero Waste perspective these both fail the test.

  11. Sabine says:

    @John Costigane:

    Hi John

    I can take the wrapper off for you and send you the toothbrush as is however I doubt it would be that hygenic. I put those wrappers into my own compost and I can guarantee you that they break down within 6 months. And that’s in a composter that isn’t in an ideal location and has a lid on. In any event paper isn’t compostable either if you look at it that way. Landfills have been known to contain intact newspaper and other papers that had been put in 30 years ago and the paper hadn’t composted – the newspapers came out almost as new. I guess what I am trying to say is that people buying these toothbrushes are eco conscious and compost literally everything themselves. Or burn everything or shred it. It’s definitley an improvement over oil based plastic I would think. Both from the peak oil view and the compostable aspect.

    Kind regards

  12. John Costigane says:

    @Sabine: Hi Sabine,

    Thanks for the reply. I will try to compost my recently opened wrapper and leave it there for a whole year. There is a different perspective between retailers, many of whom use biodegradable packaging, and consumers who have to deal with the reality of waste outcomes. Unpackaged is the answer for many purchases but I agree that toothbrushes should be well wrapped. Comparing paper packaging to biodegradables, or plastics, I choose paper every time and compost it, and card, in decent quantities, recycling the rest. The argument is over minutiae and should not detract from the value of the product itself.

  13. Karen says:

    After all this chat I decided it was time to have a new toothbrush. I have just opened a Colgate brush nearly stabbing myself with scissors. It has been the most difficult one I have ever tried to open. There was a lot of plastic . I know I should have considered that when buying it but the shop had very little choice. I live in a village on Dartmoor so the only way I would have choice is to get in the car and go to the nearest supermarket in Plymouth or Tavistock.

  14. Charlotte Bonner says:

    @Karen: I do the same! They’re also great for cleaning bicycles – all those hard to reach bits of cogs and gears

  15. Sooz says:

    Thanks for this post, it’s really interesting and something I’ve been thinking about for a while – I can’t get the Cebra website to open on my computer 🙁 I would like to use a wooden toothbrush, because I want to get as much plastic out of my life as possible, but are the bristles soft? I’m imagining them to be quite spikey and bristly, although I’m probably wrong! Does anyone know how they get the bristles off the boars? Are they shaved? or waxed (owch!)? 🙂

  16. Sabine says:


    The Cebra website works best with Google Chrome or Firefox browser. In Internet Explorer you may have to disable your firewall and virus checker which isn’t desirable. IE 7 and 8 have issues which Microsoft is trying to fix. The bristles are shaved off 🙂 and they’re not spikey at all. Medium hard I would say.

  17. Sabine says:


    Wouldn’t it be great if those supermarkets decided to stock our wooden toothbrushes? Nope. We’re being muscled out by the big brands who don’t like us. You could try and get your supermarket to deliver… I am sure if enough people moan then Tesco et al would consider a delivery service to your are. Once a week or so. Cuts down on carbon output, time and hassle. Ordering could be done online.

  18. Sooz says:

    @Sabine: oh brilliant! It sounded like the pigs are well treated, but I just wanted to make sure (I’m vegan but I make exceptions for animal by-products occasionally if they’re considerably better for the environment than other options) Thanks Sabine 🙂

  19. LJayne says:

    I didn’t know the PCF could take toothpaste tubes Mrs G. Is that any kind? Bog standard varieties like aquafresh and the like? I’m just about to send a batch of crisp packets to the PCF so will wait for a reply if you see this.

    And definitely going to check out those wooden toothbrushes Sabine, they sound great.

  20. Mrs Green says:

    @LJayne: Hi Lesley, yes, any type – not the aerosols, but any regular tubes can go in there. In fact they make a stunning Aquafresh bag; it’s really colourful!

  21. LJayne says:

    Fantastic news Mrs G, thanks. We work hard to eliminate plastic but with 3 small kids sometimes convenience is the over-riding factor. Something else I can feel *slightly* less guilty about lol.

  22. John Costigane says:

    Hi Again Sabine,

    I appreciate the challenge you face in expanding into retail outlets, which should come eventually. Having used a set of 4 purchased a while back, each as good as the previous one, my plan is to buy around 10 soon and pass some among family members to seek their thoughts. It might also be an idea for Mrs Green to offer one of these 10 as a prize for other enthusiasts. The more try a wooden toothbrush the more will switch to this sustainable product. I have yet to read a negative comment about them though vested interests might offer a futile response.

    Zero Waste mimics natural processes, where waste is simply not present. Going from plastic to the wooden type is a big step in that direction.

  23. Electric toothbrushes are super wasteful as the mainstream Sonicare and Oral-B models make it almost impossible to replace the batteries inside. I found the iBrush is easy to disassemble with a philips and flathead screwdriver, where the battery is easily replaceable. Brushes just as good (and probably better than) the name brand electric toothbrushes.

  24. Susan says:

    hmm, the links to the sites/toothbrushes aren’t working any more : ( Anyone have any up to date links?

  25. Jane says:

    Have a look at Surfers against Sewage website. I recently bought some toothbrushes from there.

  26. Susan says:

    I know this isn’t quite the same but terracycle have started a new recycling stream today for recycling toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes and boxes.

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