OUR PHILOSOPHY ON MATERIALS AND SUSTAINABILITY
We have this one, beautiful planet that not only do we live on, but are actually a piece of, and that means our choices directly impact our lives and our planet. With products, it seems there is a heavy weighted message, today, about the end of a product’s life. We believe that’s important, but that it’s only one piece of the puzzle. When we choose our materials, we look at the entire life cycle. For instance,
- Where do the materials come from?
- How are the materials created or harvested?
- Is the material toxic?
- How much energy is used to transport materials from source through the entire manufacturing process?
- How much material is wasted during the manufacturing process?
- How long does a material last during the product’s intended use?
- And then we ask, how does the material function at the end of a product’s life? Is it reusable in any form?
As much as we love our planet and environment, our mission is even larger: it’s about Sustainability. This requires us to consider all of the environmental questions we can, AND to layer on the impact our choices have on
- our social structures,
- humanity, and
- economic implications.
Our world relies on plastic and while we should minimize and eliminate many plastic streams - like single-use straws and bags - we also believe it’s critical to do everything we can to develop responsible, sustainable plastic materials for the world.
Consider some of the amazing good that happens because of plastic:
- Life saving medical devices and other technologies
- Fuel-saving in cars, planes, and all transportation from lighter weight materials like plastic
- Plastic-wrapped veggies - we know it’s controversial, but consider one perspective on it that the wraps reduce food waste (including wasted energy and greenhouse gas emissions) by millions of tons per year in the U.S. alone.
- Plastic is an efficient manufacturing process with injection molding. Anything that is excess from molding can be re-ground and sold to other companies like Bogobrush, or re-used in the next production cycle - also like Bogobrush.
- Sustainable plastics avoid the damage to natural habitats done by harvesting methods sometimes used in other materials like wood and metal.
- And so much more.
ON SOURCING OUR MATERIALS
We are committed to responsible sourcing and looking at things like
- reducing our carbon footprint through shortening the distance our materials must be shipped to our facilities,
- sourcing from companies that pay their employees fair wages and treat their communities with dignity, and
- avoiding harmful effects to wildlife habitats.
- Recycled Polypropylene
- We use post-industrial Plastic #5. It’s scrap plastic from our U.S. manufacturing facility that we regrind and prevent from ending up in the landfill.
- We use one single material in our handle. Most manual toothbrushes use rubber grips and other materials in an effort to cut costs. As much as we love saving a buck, those practices mean the handles cannot be recycled. Our single-material handle can enter a recycling stream making the life-cycle far more sustainable.
- Plant-Based Biocomposite
- Plant material from American farms. The plant pieces are from parts of the plant that farmers would ordinarily burn or are excess that cannot be tilled under. Early studies show that the plant particles help the PLA break down 70% faster than plain PLA.
- PLA sourced from U.S. company using starches from corn, sugar cane, and sugar beets.
- We use the highest quality nylon bristle manufactured in North America and sourced by our U.S. bristling partner. (We recently stopped sourcing from DuPont when their quality dropped after moving production to China.)
- Industry qualified “Soft Bristles” with the tips polished by ceramic for a finish that is often skipped by other manufacturers, but it is the healthiest on your enamel and your gums.
Oral health is crucial to overall health, and in terms of the humanitarian aspect of Sustainability, it is non-negotiable that we produce a toothbrush that isn’t a good toothbrush.
We believe there isn’t a one-size fits all solution for sustainability, but we are 100% committed to always doing our best, remaining open to the latest technologies and pushing the boundaries for healthy people and planet.
Already our existence pushes for better solutions in materials and manufacturing. Here are a couple examples:
- When we started 7 years ago, the best material was bamboo. In fact, we sourced our first production run of bamboo but quickly learned it was not the right material for us. A few things we learned:
- Production was very inefficient and created enormous product damage and waste.
- Wooden toothbrushes harbor more moisture and bacteria.
- Communication was challenging overseas, especially for a small company.
- Greenhouse gases and energy used to ship product overseas was undesirable.
- It was difficult to have transparency into the harvest and production of the material, especially as a small company.
- Since then, alternative materials have become available and our existence gives demand to the young company we work with in the U.S. for sourcing the bio-composite.
- Expose truths - eco bristles are not a thing. When we started, overseas manufacturers were making claims of a nylon that would biodegrade. Because we work with our local, U.S. manufacturers, we had the transparency to learn the truth that those bristles just weren’t real. Someday perhaps, but not yet.
- With the early demand for Bogobrush, we were able to invest in upgrades to production already. Today, Bogobrush uses 40% less material per brush than when we launched in 2015.
We will continue our commitment to responsible and sustainable innovation because we believe it in our bones.
ON END OF LIFE SOLUTIONS
Our plant based collection is non-toxic and totally safe for backyard compost piles. There are a few things you should know, though, when deciding the best solution for your plant-based Bogobrush:
- This material is still pretty new and research is starting to show that with the plant matter it will break down in compost, but it will take considerably longer (potentially a couple years) than an average banana peel or other “typical” compost matter because it’s such a dense material.
- As you may know, composting depends on the health of the pile, so the healthier the pile, the faster the break down.
- If you have community composting or industrial composting nearby, that is a good option.
- Or, you could explore breaking the handle into smaller pieces, which would help speed up the breakdown time.
We’re pushing boundaries together, so let us know what you learn!
A Note about the Bristles: The bristles are not bio-based so we recommend pulling them out - super easy with a pliers or tweezers - and toss them in the trash bin. Bio-bristles aren’t viable yet, unless we were to use animal hair which has a host of other problems like scratching the enamel on your teeth and holding moisture and bacteria. With your support, we’ll keep working towards it, though!
Recycling our recycled brushes is easy! Simply pull out the bristles with a tweezers or pliers, and toss the handle your recycle bin with plastic #5.
Did you know: Plastic recycling has gained enormous strides in efficiency to the point where many recycled plastics take less energy to make than virgin plastics. This wasn’t true at the start of recycling and is proof why it’s important to continue creating demand for better technologies and facilities. Even today in some cities, plastics that aren’t clear bottles end up in the trash because the facilities aren’t equipped to trust the source. This is changing, though, and step by step, we’re all doing our part!
This is definitely one of our more difficult choices today, but we’ve made it by staying true to the principles of Sustainability - eco, humanitarian, and economic interests - and how those principles relate to our business at this stage of growth.
Factors We Weighed:
- End of Life - must be recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable. The plastic tube is recyclable and reusable.
- Reduce product damage in mail orders.
- Customizable solution. The tubes allow us to simply order new labels for custom orders.
- Sourcing. Single material, made in the U.S. in a responsible facility. This reduces our carbon footprint and ensures fair treatment of employees.
- Visibility on Retail Shelf. The volume driven by retail is a big influence on our market demands. Our plastic tube uses a single material, unlike windowed boxes or blister packs with paperboard, plastic, and staples which result in un-recyclable trash.
- Economy of Scale and Single Solution. We are growing, but still too small to afford multiple streams of packaging production, so today we have to choose a single style of packaging to meet as many needs as possible until our volumes grow.
- Cost. We’ve seen the top end that we can expect customers to pay for this product. Many paper products are cost prohibitive to properly showcase and protect the product. As we grow, the scale will make these options possible.
End of Life
- Recycle just like a plastic bottle, OR
- Use as a travel case.
MISSION AND GOALS
We will never give up pursuing the best solutions possible. On the way, we celebrate our work to advance technology and honor the areas where progress can still be made. We are so thrilled to be on this journey with you. Thank you for being part of our Bogobrush Fam. :)