by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
I encountered Humble Brush for the first time ever on this years Natural & Organic Products Europe exhibition on Sunday, April 17, 2016 at the ExCel center in London's Docklands.
The concept behind the Humble Brush, especially the by-one-give-one idea, is a good one but, I am afraid to say, some of the statements on their website and in their literature are more than just a little misleading and thus I have rewritten them in the way they should be.
The handle of the Humble Brush is made out of bamboo which naturally provides a non-slip surface. As it is a natural material, similar to wood, it does biodegrade harmlessly over time. The brush features an ergonomic grip instead of the straight board handle that many wooden or bamboo toothbrushes commonly use.
With reference to bamboo the literature and website states: Amazing sustainability. Did you know that bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth? It is naturally antibacterial which means that there is no need to use fertilizers or pesticides during its cultivation. Clean material! Pretty amazing, right?
What the antibacterial properties have to do with the fact that no fertilizers or pesticides are required in growing bamboo beats me. The antibacterial properties do not make it pest resistant. Those properties are about something else altogether. Most wood too has the same antibacterial properties.
Unfortunately a lot of half-truth and outright lies are being perpetuated and circulated about bamboo and bamboo products and companies using such materials fall into the trap of simply believing what they are told without further researching the matter.
As I said, when it comes to bamboo and products from bamboo, I am afraid, we have to be very careful about any of the claims that are being circulated and to which the people here seem to have fallen prey as well. Local wood would be much better than bamboo that is shipped from the other side of the world and forests also grow without fertilizers and pesticides, generally.
All Humble Brush products have soft (adult) and ultra-soft (children) bristles that have been verified to be free from the toxin BPA (bisphenol A). The bristles are made out of nylon, and then we come to an interesting but misleading statement from the company's literature that claims about nylon: “a durable material (true) that degrades over time (misleading as it is a synthetic material, often containing PVC, that takes hundreds of years to degrade and then it is not a biological process in returning to the soil but one that contaminates the soil. And while the statement that it can be processed through regular waste channels is true the fact that it is attached to a stick of bamboo makes that rather questionable. True is though that there is no other, and definitely no plant-based, material that would allow the brush to be used for the recommended three months.
The packaging of the brush is compostable as both the transparent wrapper in which the Humble brush is packed in the cardboard box is plant-based; we used to simply call it cellophane, and the cell standing for the fact that such wrap was made from cellulose, and this wrapper is nothing different. The box is made out of 100% recycled material and as it is cardboard will also compost.
Humble Brush, it is claimed, has no disadvantages to conventional toothbrushes and will last you just as long as any mass produced plastic toothbrush. And with that I do not have any issue at all.
For every Humble Brush sold, we donate a toothbrush or the equivalent production cost to a child in need, and that is what is behind the buy one, give one concept.
Through the The Humble Smile Foundation, together with partners, helps people most in need of oral care around the world. People in need receive the means, education and motivation to improve their oral hygiene. Studies shows that a poor oral hygiene can lead to systemic health problems. Early oral care interventions may prevent or arrest systemic disease.
This is a step for sure to eliminating the mass of plastic toothbrushes that are tossed out annually all over the world. The nylon bristles, unfortunately, still will remain an issue but less so than entire plastic toothbrushes that are going into landfill.
If one would be crafty inclined than one could, no doubt, use the bamboo handles to make something else out of an one would only have to discard the bristles themselves.
Oh, and while I am at the subject of reuse and reworking: Don't toss an old toothbrush. They can be used for many other brushing tasks after they can no longer be used on your teeth, from cleaning the spaces between tiles, around taps on sinks and basins, to cleaning the bicycle, or using the brush as a shoe polish applicator. And that goes for any old toothbrush.
I like the brush and the concept of the buy-one-give-one for sure. The only issue I have is with the literature both in print and on the web, which is, to some extent tantamount to greenwash, though it is possible that the people behind Humble Brush have been misled themselves by others.
N.B. What I have said here about bamboo does not just apply to the Humble Brush toothbrush but to all such toothbrushes and also many other bamboo products, and don't get me started on bamboo fiber or we are going to be here all day.