Dental,  Health & Beauty,  Recycling & Re-use

Recyclable, returnable and eco-friendlier electric toothbrush heads

How can it be February already? Hope you’re doing okay. As the evenings get lighter and longer, there’s new hope that the world will start to become a better place.

I’m feeling sorry for myself having had a rogue wisdom tooth extracted last week. The surgeon said I’d feel like I’d been kicked in the face by a horse. He wasn’t wrong. Ok, maybe a Shetland pony. But still….

As toothcare is on my mind, I thought I’d make today’s post about a great, more sustainable dental product I’ve been using for a while: LiveCoco toothbrush heads.

Manual vs. Electric

Have you gone electric in the tooth-cleaning sense? Or do you prefer a trusty manual brush? Maybe a bit of both?

I’ve used an electric brush for decades but still have a manual one in reserve for travelling (remember that?!).

Since starting my journey to become greener, it’s hard to ignore that disposable electric toothbrush heads are not a great choice for the planet, being predominantly made of plastic that can’t conventionally be recycled.

Of course, TerraCycle has provided a temporary recycling solution for this dental waste issue (for more info, see my previous post).

And while dropping off knackered old toothbrush heads to a TerraCycle collection point is miles better than just throwing them in the bin, it’s by no means a perfect solution.

Going Loco down in LiveCoco

Now, I know you might think the brand name doesn’t really fit with dental products. It could conjure up memories of a certain (brilliant) 80s song or even a well-known coconut water drink. That’s because LiveCoco’s brand origins are in the humble coconut.

LiveCoco describe how after becoming more aware of the colossal ocean plastics problem we face, they changed their product range to stock only sustainable items. The “Coco” in their name is short for “Conscious Consumer”.

Tell me more about the toothbrush heads

At the moment, LiveCoco brush heads fit only Braun Oral-B electric toothbrushes (all models, except the iO range).

The brush heads are made of recycled black thermoplastic with dark grey recyclable nylon bristles and a metal fastener to allow the top to rotate when in use.

The bristles are infused with Binchotan Charcoal. That’s the same type of charcoal used in water filters. LiveCoco say it absorbs chlorine from tap water. Which means you don’t have to!

The LiveCoco brush heads are vegan and cruelty-free. They do feel slightly less premium than the Oral-B ones but this has no impact on performance.

They fit snugly to the base unit and stay on it without any issues. They’re also easy to take on and off.

I’ve noticed no difference in their cleaning performance when compared to the Oral-B brush heads.

The only thing to note is that the Oral-B brush head bristles fade in colour to show when you need to replace the brush head with a new one. There’s no indicator in the LiveCoco brush heads. But I don’t find that an issue at all.

Each brush head lasts for around three months, the same as the Oral-B ones.

How about the packaging and pack size options?

The LiveCoco brush heads come in brown cardboard boxes with a brown cardboard insert to hold the brush heads in place.

The packaging is plastic-free and fully recyclable. Oral-B’s heads come in only partially recyclable packaging (cardboard with blister plastic).

You can get LiveCoco brush heads in packs of 2, 6 or 12 with a choice of standard or soft bristles.

How do I return the brush heads after use?

You can return used brush heads directly to LiveCoco by packaging them up and posting to:

LiveCoco – For Recycling
Unit 1
Cumberland House
Cumberland Road
North Shields
NE29 8RD

If you live outside of the UK, there are other addresses. For details, click here.

Larger packs come with a pre-paid recycling returns envelope.

Just a word of caution, LiveCoco will provide a free returns slip or envelope for brush heads that were ordered directly from them.

If you bought them elsewhere you’ll need to request a refund for the postage cost. At this time, the total refund amount is limited to 79p for the UK.

What do LiveCoco do with the old brush heads?

LiveCoco send all the old brush heads in bulk to a third party partner for recycling. It’s not clear from their website who that partner is.

Because of the closed-loop status of the product, I presumed they were sending to their supplier/manufacturer who would melt the brush heads down to make new ones. But on closer inspection, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

This video on LiveCoco’s website suggests that their recycling partner melts down the plastics to make other items, including plastic benches, rucksacks and plant pots. Just like TerraCycle.

Having thought about this a lot, I still think on balance that using LiveCoco brush heads is a better option than buying Oral-B ones and recycling them via TerraCycle. This is because:

  1. LiveCoco brush heads come in fully recyclable cardboard packaging. Oral-B brush heads do not.
  2. LiveCoco are a small business actively trying to do good. Procter & Gamble, Oral-B’s multinational owner’s goals on recyclability are set to a 2030 target date. Too little, too late?
  3. Visiting TerraCycle drop off points is not a viable option during the pandemic while in lockdown.

However, I would LOVE it if LiveCoco’s manufacturer could melt down and re-use the old brush heads to make new brush heads. That would be an even more powerful closed-loop system.

A final word about bamboo toothbrushes

Have you noticed how mainstream dental brands such as Colgate have recently introduced a bamboo toothbrush?

While this is clearly a step in the right direction, it’s disappointing that this is just a tiny proportion of Colgate’s products. Their position on sustainability is set out here.

It seems there’s lots going on and they’ve said the aim is for all packaging to be recyclable, refillable or compostable by 2025. That’s a lot of waste in the meantime.

Back to bamboo…. Like all other bamboo toothbrushes I’m aware of, the Colgate brush bristles are made of nylon and have to be separated from the brush handle before disposal when it reaches end of life. 

So it’s really only the handle that’s compostable. When buying online, Colgate have had to make this aspect clear using an asterisk. 

But I expect in-person shoppers could miss this detail unless they really study the box closely in the shop before deciding whether to buy. And quite frankly, who has time for that? Especially as COVID etiquette means it’s better to only handle items you intend to buy.

So, what are your thoughts on all of this? Do you use LiveCoco brush heads? What do you think of them?

Have you found any other brands that work with Braun Oral-B units or even with other brands like Philips Sonicare? Please do share in the comments below. 

LiveCoco Braun Oral-B compatible toothbrush heads, from £9.99 (2 pack) to £59.94 (12 pack). Available online directly from LiveCoco (free delivery when you spend £25+ and you can subscribe and save for initial 25% and 10% off thereafter). Also available online and in-store from Holland & Barrett.

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