Your standard toothbrush takes 450 years to degrade, and given we're supposed to swap them out every three to six months, well, you can imagine the amount of plastic we toss each year with just one item. 

For exactly this reason, an Irish couple have created a biodegradable toothbrush, made from bamboo rather than plastic like the 3.5 million ones that are sold each year. 

Both from Ashbourne, Co Meath, Niamh McGill - a vet - and her partner Joe Finnegan launched their product, Bambooth, as an alternative for people who want to be more sustainable at home. McGill is studying a masters in conservation and has worked in the area for some time, so has seen first hand the impact of plastic on wildlife and the environment. 

With the average person using 300 toothbrushes in their lifetime, it is estimated that 80% of these end up in the sea where they cause serious harm to wildlife. 

Of course, bamboo and biodegradable toothbrushes are not new products. The Library of Congress notes that one of the earliest versions of the toothbrush we now use was invented in 1498 in China, using hair from the back of a boar's neck attached to a bamboo handle.

In fact, an Irish-based business called VirtueBrush has been supplying Bamboo Toothbrushes in Ireland since 2016. However, the couple still felt that they had a place in the market.

Quoted on, she said: "I really started to notice how much we were recycling in the house and there's only two of us and we don't eat in all the time.

"So basically, one day when I was brushing my teeth, it kind of dawned on me, 'why would you not use a biodegradable handle if everything else was the same?

"Joe was doing woodwork at the time as a hobby. So, when he came home one evening he carved a bamboo handle out of a piece of wood."

The handle is made from Moso bamboo, an incredibly sustainable kind of bamboo that grows a metre each day and is not eaten or lived in by pandas, making it panda-friendly. The brushes bristles are nylon, and BPA-free. 

Swapping out our most-used items for sustainable options is certainly one way to live an eco-friendly life. 

"Our tagline is 'change the handle, change the world', and I think the bottom line is that everybody wants to make a change and is willing to do so if they're not giving up on anything", McGill says.

"Dental hygiene is really important to people but if you can be assured that your toothbrush is doing the same thing but all you're changing is the handle you're going to hold but that it's going to be gone in six months rather than hanging around for 500 years, I think that's a case for making a change."

The brushes come with a double benefit as each one purchased gives back to one of four conservation organisations, each of which are very close to McGill's heart. The toothbrushes come in four colours, each representing one of the groups that the company is associated with.

Forest Green is linked with the Jane Goodall Institute, Sea Blue is linked with Plastic Oceans UK, Coral Pink is associated with the Coral Reef Alliance and their Aqua Marine brush represents a link with The Marine Conservation Society.

"It's 10c per brush goes to those organisations with a minimum donation," Ms. McGill said.

"I picked the groups because they're all ones I really like. I've done a lot of research; I haven't had a chance to work with them yet but my plan with my masters is to work with some of these organisations next year.

"I've done conservation work as a vet, so it's all animal-related, in Africa, Thailand, Borneo and places like that."

The couple are currently living in London, but plan to move back to Ireland soon to develop their sustainable products.