Wheat Straw: An Eco-Friendly Solution to Plastic Toothbrushes
With all the hype around bamboo in recent years, it seems like we’ve all turned into panda bears! However, it’s good to recognize that there are other plant-based materials with standout sustainability aspects. These include wheat straw. What is wheat straw? Let’s take a look at what it is and why you’ll start to see it in more eco-friendly products.
Why Plastic and Pearly Whites Don’t Always Go Together
When it comes to how to be more eco-friendly, many sustainable swaps can be made at home—including in the bathroom. Between shampoo bottles, plastic dental floss, and the wrapper around the package of toilet paper, most bathrooms contain a lot of petroleum-based plastic.
With our dental routines alone, most conventional products are made with plastic (think: toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, mouthwash bottles, etc.). In the United States alone, we throw away around one billion toothbrushes every year. That’s equal to more than 50 million pounds of waste sent to landfill!
And that’s not even the worst news. Quite often, these plastic materials end up polluting our waterways, ultimately ending up in our oceans. Plastic waste like toothbrushes is ending up on beaches and causing harm to marine life. Sometimes mistaken for food, it’s unfortunately not too uncommon to see birds and sea life with toothbrushes lodged in their throats.
Fortunately, there’s a far more sustainable alternative. We can still brush our way to a healthier mouth, without potentially causing harm for our planet or the living beings on it.
Introducing: Wheat Straw
As one of the latest eco-friendly materials, wheat straw plastic has emerged as a great alternative to plastic made from fossil fuels. What is wheat straw used for? While it’s still gaining popularity, it’s already been used in drinking straws, food containers, plates, reusable cups, and more.
However, this isn’t to suggest that wheat straw is new. In fact, it’s been used as a building material for millennia, with evidence that some of its first use was by ancient Egyptians! It was used then as a binding material in clay bricks and even today wheat straw is used as insulation in eco-friendly houses.
So then, what exactly is wheat straw?
What is Wheat Straw?
Like you may have gathered from its name, wheat straw is part of the wheat plant. If you were to look at wheat growing in a field, you would see the spike (also called kernel), the portion at the head that looks braided. This is the part that is turned into flour and consumed in breads, cakes, pastries, and other baked goods.
The rest of the plant is a byproduct—meaning that it’s left over after the wheat harvest. Containing a lot of cellulose, the wheat straw can become a polymer. A polymer—for those who need a science class refresher—is a chain of repeating units. Plastic is an artificial polymer, but wheat straw based polymers are completely natural!
When it comes to how to make wheat straw, the process entails a few environmentally friendly steps.
First, the portion that keeps the straw standing up straight (lignin) is broken down by a bacteria found in soil, Rhodococcus jostii. Then, the lignin is blended with sugar. This forms a plastic-like structure which can be molded into the product that the wheat straw will become, like a cup, storage container, or eco friendly toothbrush.
Why Wheat Straw is an Eco-Friendly Solution to Plastic Toothbrushes
Not only does something like a wheat straw toothbrush make use of an agricultural product that otherwise would have gone to waste, but it also provides many other benefits for people and our planet:
- Wheat straw is BPA free and FDA approved.
- Although it comes from the wheat plant, wheat straw is a 100% gluten free, non-allergenic material.
- The material is sturdy, strong, and easy to clean.
- Although it’s natural, wheat straw won’t get moldy, nor does it release an off putting odor.
- Used in plates and cups, wheat straw is freezer and microwave safe.
- Wheat straw goods can also handle heats up to 220℉.
- When compared with synthetic polymers, producing wheat straw polymers requires much less energy—and releases significantly less carbon emissions.
- Wheat straw is biodegradable. In just three to six months, it can break down in a backyard compost system. It only takes one or two months in commercial composting facilities!
Because wheat straw is sourced as a byproduct, it also provides an additional income to wheat farmers. Not only that, but typically, wheat waste is burned. Because the wheat straw is being used, it means that it doesn’t need to be burned—which prevents even more carbon emissions and cuts down on air pollution.
Terra & Co. is Staying On Top of the Most Sustainable Materials
At Terra & Co., we’re constantly exploring new options to make our collection of oral care products even more sustainable. While we recognize that there are many benefits of a bamboo toothbrush, we realize that some people are looking for an eco friendly toothbrush, not bamboo. That’s why we’ve got a wheat straw toothbrush in the works! Keep an eye out for the new addition to our lineup.