Guardarrr #32: Sustainable flossing?

Esta es la versión inglesa de mi boletín, puedes encontrar el mismo texto en castellano aquí.

(I don’t often talk about brands but today’s topic requires it. Even so, none of the ones mentioned below have given me anything, as no marketing manager would be crazy enough to do a “collaboration” with me.)

This summer the topic of dental hygiene has led me to reflect about the “more sustainable” products and the limits of their usefulness, that is, when attempts to make a product more sustainable lead to loss of functionality.

It happens a lot. You have to be very stubborn or criteria-free not to be able to admit that, for example, leather or eggs have properties that can hardly be replaced with other products. Pleather and vegan “cheese” leave a lot to be desired compared to the originals.

And, at least for me, I have confirmed that dental floss also has a long way to go.

First, let’s establish the level of need for dental floss: for me it has been a quality-of-life ensuring basic for about 14 years now and, if I were forced to choose between not brushing and not flossing, I would have to think about it. I know that for many people it is not an essential item, thus they don’t think much of their dental floss. Good for you, you get more dental plaque but also more peace of mind!

Second, according to my understanding of the dental floss market, there are four tiers of sustainability: (1) the big brand products made of nylon or plastic in their hard plastic boxes, all synthetic and not even recyclable; (2) synthetic floss in cardboard boxes, meaning that only the floss itself and the metal piece that cuts it are not recyclable; (3) bioplastic floss aspiring to be compostable in recyclable or even refillable packaging; (4) the truly biodegradable alternatives used by zero waste evangelicals: neem sticks or silk or cotton threads from frayed clothing…

Hence, the options that are bought and used as the “normal” floss are (2) and (3). And between these two I have found my limits of what makes sense. Here it should be noted, of course, that the spaces between the teeth are individually different, as are the usual flossing movements, etc. but my experience is this:

This spring I had run out of dental floss, and, not to place tiny international orders and make the streets even more bustling with delivery vans, I went to my closest eco-bio store and bought the dental floss they had. This brings us to…

Item 1: NaturBrush dental floss (PLA floss in a bamboo box, refills can be purchased) No. No, no, no. The box is the only nice thing here. It was unbearable to use this floss. It was breaking all the time, so I had to use a lot more length and it was very frustrating. I even got a chunk stuck between my teeth overnight. It came out the next day but it almost cost me a trip to the dentist. Never more. I am now using the box to carry my travel embroidery threads, putting the needles inside and cutting the mouliné with the metal detail.

Item 2: Arriving in Riga this summer, I ran out of floss and had to find some. I wanted something better than the plastic boxes from the supermarket and the zero waste shop in Āgenskalna tirgus had floss from Georganics (PLA floss in a glass jar with an aluminum lid, refills available). It kind of works. It’s not perfect. It breaks at times. It is impossible for me to take it out of the jar as intended, so I open it completely and cut it with the scissors. I will finish this one but I will not buy the refill. It’s in that gray zone of “I could use it if I didn’t have anything better”.

But I have another one, item 3. A few days in Barcelona were enough to stop by my local pharmacy (!) and buy four (!!) boxes of my new all-time favorite floss from Beter (nylon floss in a cardboard box). What a relief to use a product that works! Really, don’t let those of the PLA come to me saying that they are the same as the synthetic ones. They are not. This one does what it should do and doesn’t waste my time or brain cells. In addition, the fact that it is black is wonderful: you can see very well the remains of food that you are taking out, something that is almost unlivable on white silks. I shall stockpile this one in fear of it disappearing from the market.

So, my conclusion after a foray in the world of PLA dental floss is that I will I stick with the nylon one. I’m not in the mood to spend much more time each night cursing the f^@£%ing floss.

All this without going into the subject of bioplastics and how compostable they actually are in everyday conditions, I just don’t see the point of these alternatives. My time and mental energy is worth more than the microgesture of bragging about a more sustainable dental floss. I will continue to cut the nylon one into shorter pieces before discarding it and trusting that its use will prevent visits to the dentist and the waste that those entail.

Intercambio de ropa | 1 de octubre 11:00 – 14:00 en Ateneu Roig, c/ Torrent d’En Vidalet 32, Barcelona. This is the 6th anniversary of me doing clothes swaps and a return to certain normalcy of “this is how we used to do this”, so I hope to see you there to celebrate.

Demasiado poco se habla de estas huellas medioambientales: Seis tipos de deportes que deberían estar prohibidos. Lo mismo sobre la esmalte de uñas, por ejemplo.

El impacto ambiental de la alimentación en España es un 26% superior a la media europea… y además se enfadan al ser señalados.


It’s worse when it’s a feature and not an accident: When sewage treatment goes right, it’s just as harmful as when it goes wrong

Because every aesthetic is political: Why is cottagecore so blindingly white? + It’s Deeper Than Daisies: Marxism, Cottagecore, and Aesthetic Resistance.

Yes, one of the big sustainability problems is that “sustainability” is as vague of a term as they get: Overcoming green-washing and misinformation in fashion.

While fitting a full night’s sleep into your schedule may seem impossible, outsourcing that sleep to skincare is not only also impossible, but more impossible, and […] actively steals sleep via the hours of labor required to make the amount of money required to buy the damn skincare” + rest as a spiritual practice and a resistance tool.

Yup, Mad Max is coming: The Sinaloa Cartel Is Controlling Water in Drought-Stricken Mexico.

And that’s it for this week! I hope that you enjoyed reading and would be very happy to hear from you, regarding dental floss or anything else… in the comments below, via Facebook or Instagram, or via e-mail at luize.ratniece [a] gmail .com

Guardarrr is a newsletter dedicated to sustainability and mindfulness in fashion. It is written by Luīze Ratniece, a sociologist and textile activist based in Barcelona.

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