Dental Floss, it's used in households across the world every day, but did you know most dental floss is not biodegradable? When we think of single use plastic, dental floss is not usually something that comes to mind. However, your standard dental floss purchased from the supermarket is just that — plastic on the inside and out, and not biodegradable. The floss itself is used once and tossed into the garbage.
Although the plastic packaging may get placed into your recycle bin, let's face it, it's highly unlikely that floss packaging is getting recycled. Both the floss and the packaging will end up in landfill where it will remain for well past your lifetime.
So what's the solution? You'll be happy to know there are a few types of biodegradable dental floss on the market that contain no plastic, are safe to place in your home composting system and are not packaged in plastic.
Silk dental floss is packaged in a glass jar with a metal lid. The container is refillable, so when you have used your dental floss you simply purchase silk refills and add them to your glass jar. Vegan dental floss is packaged in a metal jar, making it super sturdy for travel. Vegan dental floss also has floss refills.
You may have heard of EORTH's [non-scientific] biodegradable test patch. It's a patch of dirt we use in the back garden to, quite literally, toss products into. We say toss because these products are added to the bio test patch on top of the soil.
The idea is to emulate what would happen to a biodegradable product if it was thrown on the ground in nature. And we say non-scientific because these results are not in conducted in scientific nature; the soil is not tested after it's broken down, there's no analysis of how well they have broken down after one week or two etc. It's simply a test to see if a product will in fact break down over a period of time and how long will that process take?
We've previously tested biodegradable/compostable straws — they received a big fail, and after over a year the straw is still sitting in the bio test patch. It's still intact, you could drink from it, it's not breaking down any time soon. We tested Patch band aid strips — they received a big pass. And we are currently testing a few other products including our biodegradable Swedish Dish Cloths.
Back to our biodegradable dental floss results. We added Silk and Vegan Dental Floss to the test patch. The vegan dental floss is a bio-based floss that is made from corn.
The silk floss broke down faster than the biobased floss but they both vanished over a period of time. Although neither the silk floss or the vegan dental floss are certified home compostable they have been added to our personal compost many times, and they have disappeared without a trace.
We added our silk and biobased vegan dental floss to the test patch on April 1. The silk dental floss was tied to a wood skewer and the vegan floss tied to a bamboo toothbrush, simply so they would not blow away in the wind.
The biodegradability tests were run in the tropics, so it's highly likely that different results would occur in different parts of the world, during different seasons.
The results would also likely be very different if they were run during the hot, rainy season of the Far North Queensland (FNQ) tropics. However, the tests were simply to determine if they would break down or not, and in roughly what timeframe. In this case the dental floss test was conducted during the dry cool season in FNQ.
Although we checked on the floss almost weekly over the course of a few months, we did fail to take some photos during that period. May 9th the floss was still holding strong. (We would give it a little tug during the testing stage to see where it was at).
On July 3, the bamboo toothbrush was removed from the test patch as there were no traces of the silk floss left. Yes we failed to take a photo during this period, so you'll just have to trust us on this one!
The vegan bio based dental floss was still holding tight to the wooden stick.
Yes more apologies needed as photos were not taken with the stick in the ground as it got moved to a new testing item. (Did we mention this was non-scientific?) When checking in early September the floss was gone, missing without a trace.
Both the silk and the vegan dental floss will completely biodegrade and return back to nature leaving no trace of their existence. An excellent result. The silk floss did break down quicker than the bio-based floss, by a few months. However if using silk is a problem for you and you'd prefer the vegan option then you can rest easy, as it's also plastic free and will cause no harm to the environment.
Result: Biodegradable Dental Floss Passed The Test
It's important to mention that just because a product states it's biodegradable it doesn't mean that it's going to simply return to nature in a short time frame like an apple, orange or banana peel would for example.
In a previous article we covered the difference between biodegradable and compostable along with a breakdown of the logos used for certification of compostable plastics.
It should also be noted that some dental floss on the market contains bamboo fibre, although the bamboo itself is biodegradable the fibre is usually a mix of bamboo and nylon. This floss is not biodegradable. Always check your labels!
Author Bio - Catherine Anne Earle
Catherine founded EORTH, an online plastic free store in July 2018.
Although she had always considered herself to be fairly environmentally conscious, it wasn't until she participated in a Plastic Free July challenge that she became more aware of how damaging plastics were to the environment.
Catherine has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Management and was the part-owner and founder of Sun Peaks Independent News, a community newspaper based in British Columbia, Canada.
Catherine now resides in her home town of Cairns and operates EORTH in the beautiful beachside suburb of Palm Cove, Queensland.