Yangzhou, ChinaThe famous traveller Marco Polo claimed to have served as the governor of this city (but it’s more likely he spent his years here as a salt merchant). Craftsmanship has always been at the centre of Yangzhou life with the city housing some of China’s finest traditional craftsmen. But today you also find more future-leaning craft shops in Yangzhou, such as The Toothbrush and Straw Factory.
Seven years ago, two friends worked in a plastic toothbrush factory. One day they saw a prototype toothbrush made from bamboo. Painfully aware of the enormous damage plastic has on the environment and seeing the need for a far more sustainable toothbrush, they set up their own business. Their ambition: To craft sustainably grown bamboo from the nearby Zhejiang mountains into the world’s most sustainable bio-degradable toothbrushes and straws.
In the beginning, they made the toothbrushes by hand, but now they’ve automated parts of the process. First, they steam the bamboo. That dries the bamboo and removes parasites. Next, they cut the bamboo into strips and mold the strips into a variety of shapes. After that, they sand the bamboo handles to make them smooth. Finally, they bore small holes into the head, attach the nylon bristles and package the toothbrushes.
The Toothbrush Factory has been an active commercial unit since 2016. It’s still a small-scale operation with 30 employees. It is owned by the two friends.