Cradle to Cradle

The Life of a Toothbrush-Jacob Self

How They are Made

Plastic is mixed and shaped into pellets. The pellets are then placed in an injection molding machine that heats the plastic until it is melted. The molds form the entire handle, including the small holes that house the bristles. The molds are securely clamped, and pressure is applied to the molds while the plastic cools. Once the molds have cooled, the clamps are removed, and a toothbrush shaft is left. Then, nylon bristles are inserted into the toothbrush. After that these bristles are trimmed and the toothbrush is placed in a package made of plastic and cardboard.

How They are Used

Toothbrushes are used for cleaning teeth. People typically use them twice a day, and it is recommended that they are replaced about every month, thus, the average person might use between 12 and 16 toothbrushes per year.

What Happens After

Toothbrushes, along with other garbage, are placed in a landfill, where they are left to decompose over the next several thousand years. Plastics biodegrade very slowly, and the toothbrush is no different. Even when the toothbrush is technically "decomposed," fragments of the plastic will still remain forever. Thus, it is impossible for toothbrushes to completely decompose.

Environmental Effects

Over the hundreds and thousands of years that toothbrushes remain in landfills, rainwater mixes with the plastics and toxins, and it spreads to nearby lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans. This tainted water is thrust into the water cycle, which can lead to polluted rainwater which affects plant life. Additionally, this polluted water ends up as our drinking water. Another important thing to note is that toothbrushes are far from clean; the mouth contains the most germs out of any part of the body, and this factor greatly adds to the negative effects that toothbrush disposal and decomposition have on the environment.

Solution

A product already exists called "The Environmental Toothbrush." This product is a biodegradable toothbrush made solely of bamboo, which makes it completely environmentally friendly. Additionally, bamboo has a rapid growth rate, which makes deforestation unnecessary. This solution costs the same as other toothbrushes, they last just as long, but it removes the impact of a lifetime of disposed toothbrushes.
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Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

Reducing, reusing, and recycling can have significant results on preserving the Earth's biodiversity. Reducing wastes and pollution is the first step in preserving the Earth's life. Next, it is important to reuse. Rather than dispose of particular items, finding a way to reuse them will prevent unnecessary garbage taking up space in a landfill. Recycling is the last step. There are ways to recycle countless things, from paper to plastic, and recycling allows trashed items to be remade into a brand new item. All three of these steps are vital in the preservation of the Earth's biodiversity.

Works Cited

"How Products Are Made." How Toothbrush Is Made. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.


"The Environmental Toll of Plastics." — Environmental Health News. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.


"The Environmental Toothbrush." The Environmental Toothbrush. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.