How biodegradable is bamboo?

A facebook post of someone proudly holding up a bamboo toothbrush, it had come out of their compost bin, the owner held it up "they don't break down as quickly as some people hope" he says. It had been in the composter for about 9 months and apart from looking a tiny bit dirty, you could still tell it was a toothbrush. 

Bamboo's strength is it's virtue 

Bamboo is such a tough material, it's a great choice for an object that you use everyday for 3-4 months. It is naturally antibacterial and dries quickly, so it's only logical that the material resists natural decompostion. 

Why compost something that can have uses when it's toothbrushing job has come to an end?

Bamboo toothbrushes in the garden

Gardeners always have uses for a toothbrush sized stick, or even a toothbrush with the bristles on. 

Very useful as a dibber, for weeding, pricking out (shave the end to more of a point), potting on, they are strong enough to support small plants - you can write on them so they make fantastic plant labels and row markers. Why not paint it and varnish it for longer lasting labels you can use again and again? 

Most old plastic toothbrushes could also live out their days in these useful ways, why throw something into landfill when it's still useful? Steralise before use by boiling in water for 3 minutes.

Bamboo kindling

A quick downward stroke with a sharp blade (taking care obviously) and your tiny nylon bristles are removed for most tasks. However, for burning it is better to pluck them out with pliers ready to use for kindling. 

Bamboo compost

So just how long does it take for a bamboo toothbrush to biodegrade, and are they a good alternative to single use plastic toothbrushes?

Different ways to compost a bamboo toothbrush

The temperature makes a difference, so if you compost at home it takes longer than an industrial composter but the bamboo toothbrush will break down eventually. 

Just add it to your compost bin, like other sticks and twigs, chop up, sieve out and re-add to the bin until it's become compost to use on your garden. About 2 years

Added to your food waste bin, about 3 months.

Left to the elements, about 10 years.

So is it worth it? 

To put it into perspective, it takes over 400 years for a plastic toothbrush to break down, so even a couple of years to decompose is a blink in the eye compared to plastic in landfill.