My mum told me, about a year ago, that flossing three times a day would help reduce the amount my gums were bleeding. And I did it. Because even though I’m 31 years of age, I still listen to my mama. She was right, as usual, but in adjusting my habits to increase flossing but what I didn’t realize, that by adjusting my habits to increase the frequency of my flossing, I was also increasing the negative impacts my existence has on the planet and her inhabitants.
Throughout this series, I’ve taken a hard look at myself and question, as the products or habits cross me, whether what I’m using or doing is really as kind and conscious as it could be.
9.9 times out of 10, I’m not. Dental floss included.
Conventional dental floss, the stuff we all have in our bathrooms - unless we’ve made a conscious effort not to - is made from waxed nylon, which is derived from crude oil (a non-renewable resource). Unlike plastic, it ONLY takes about 30-80 years to decompose. That nylon is then rolled up into a small plastic box, which takes about 500 – 1,000 years to decompose all on its lonesome. To top it off, the discarded floss jams pumps in sewage treatment facilities, (don't put your floss down the toilet!) a shitty job (pun intended) for those city workers lucky enough to detangle our discards.
THE (sort of) SOLUTIONS
There is a Madonna’s front teeth sized gap in the market for some clever entrepreneur when it comes to floss. This is because the solutions to the sizable problem posed don’t come without considerable consequence.
Silk floss is compostable which is brilliant, and biodegrades in 60-90 days. The only problem is, in order to create silk you need to boil silk worms alive. Which is a pretty grim visual. In my opinion, and I think vegans consider this BECAUSE nylon floss doesn’t biodegrade and harms animals in both its creation and disposal. Silk floss is a kinder (though still horrific) choice over conventional floss.
There are only silk two silk floss options I could find:
It comes in a plastic container though, which is super frustrating, but can be recycled into something else (though recycling still has impacts on the planet, so it’s not a solution either). They sell a vegan floss too but it is made of nylon, so only their silk one is a sustainable solution.
WHERE TO BUY? On Amazon HERE.
German brand, Vömel, sells silk floss in a cute refillable glass vial. I ordered the vial and 5 refills from Sin Plastico which should last me a year or two.
There are picks on the market which are made up of wood tapered to a point. They’re similar to a toothpick but thin enough to fit between the gum line. Because they’re made of FSC certified wood, they’re biodegradable, and the wood is FSC certified basswood which means it is sustainable, but they process the wood in China which means it is probably not ethical.
WHERE TO BUY? On Amazon HERE.
Zero Waste blogger Béa Johnson unravels a piece of silk fabric and twists the threads together to create floss. I tried this with strip of silk I had in my fabric offcuts, but my teeth are so dang close together they snapped the thread. That said, there is an eco haberdashery I used to work for called Offset Warehouse which has Peace Silk Thread (with peace silk they let the silkworms hatch) which might be stronger as it's properly spun. Not only is it kinder, sustainable, biodegradable options, but it is also Zero Waste as it can be washed and reused continuously.
WHERE TO BUY? OFFSET WAREHOUSE
*please note: PETA does not feel Peace Silk is Cruelty-free, and this is still an animal byproduct so for vegans this may not be an opion!
What’s on offer is pretty grim. Even a brand which calls itself ECO DENT, isn't (I didn’t write about them because their dental floss is made of nylon, and though their packaging is eco-friendly, they're not). We shouldn’t have to ask ourselves weather we’d prefer to kill worms or strangle sea lions (and other wildlife) to uphold our dental health. If we can invent spaceships with send people into space and bring them back again, we can invent a solution to this problem. It’s a question of priority rather than possibility.
Photos: Dental Floss: Holly Rose | Sea Lion Photo: Pinterest