Every year at least 8m tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean, which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean each minute. This is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050, at which stage there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. The scale of the problem is so massive that it can feel diffcult to know what to do about it. One of the simplest ways to contribute to a fix is to make a small change to something that people use every single day – for example a toothbrush, which is a big contributor to ocean plastic.
I started this project by taking all of the positive elements, in terms of quality and environmental sustainability, from 3 common types of toothbrushes; manual, bamboo and electric. I then tried to combine these characteristics together to find a way for all of the best qualities to co-exist in one product.
The outcome is Oral-Bamboo - compostable electric toothbrush heads which encompass the quality and style of regular Oral-B products, but deliver a more environmentally sustainable product suited to a modern lifestyle. The product is redesigned from Oral-B’s plastic electric toothbrush heads, but has been made into an ‘eco-luxury’ product, using bamboo and nylon-4 bristles, both of which are compostable materials. So, once the Oral-Bamboo heads need replacing, they can simply be thrown into the compost and will break down within one year, resulting in a zero waste product and occasioning less use of landfill.
I also explored more sustainable materials for the coloured plastic rings that come with regular plastic toothbrush heads, so that they can be reused forever rather than just for a couple of months. I therefore designed a set of different coloured metallic rings made from anodised aluminium that would come with the Oral-Bamboo heads.
I designed the packaging to have a more minimal, sleek appearance compared to regular excessive plastic packaging that toothbrush heads usually come in. The box would be made from biodegradable cardboard embedded with mint herb seeds, to reflect on the freshness of toothpaste. Consumers then have the choice to plant the packaging which will subsequently grow into a lemon balm plant. As packaging should be designed so that it is easy to be good, I felt that this was a simple solution to dispose of the packaging in a more ethical way, whilst gaining something positive from it. It was especially important to align the packaging so that it demonstrates the values of the product to the consumer and to also be zero waste. I drew up some simple instructions to be placed inside the box, demonstrating in an easy way how to grow the packaging into a plant. In addition, to avoid using toxic ink, the relevant information and logo would be laser cut into the packaging instead.