Yuan Tai is based in Bamboo Hill/Zhushan, a township surrounded by the northern ranges of Alishan. When it was established in the 1970s, there were about 1500 registered bamboo product manufacturers in Taiwan, more than 17 million bamboos were harvested annually. However, by 2004, the registered manufacturers had reduced to less than 100, and the bamboo yield had decreased to 0.5 million annually. The bamboo industry is now perceived as a sunset industry. Bamboo needles, chopsticks, and crafts that Yuan Tai used to manufacture and export were replaced by cheaper plastics. When OA Lin, Yuan Tai’s second generation owner, went home to take over the small factory of 150 square meters, he did not receive a single order at ﬁrst. He realised that there must be a total transformation to let bamboo re-enter our daily life. Seeing bamboo as one of the most environmentally friendly materials, he handmade the Feel Good Toothbrush——the ﬁrst bamboo toothbrush that was made in Taiwan ——with locally harvested bamboo, along with completely biodegradable lacquer coating and horsehair bristle. Now consumers have a natural alternative to plastic toothbrushes. Yuan Tai now aims to achieve sustainability by running a zero-waste factory. We hope to let everyone live eco-friendly and still feel good.
What started out as a simple decision to cut out avoidable plastic waste created daily has since given me a knack for seeking out plastic disposable alternatives. I started to document my eco journey and upcycling ideas on www.monoanco.com.
The goal is to be able to replace most plastic wares in the modern household with more natural material products. The plastic disposable toothbrush is one of the easiest items to make the switch. It’s the first thing to be used in the morning and the last before going to bed but gets thrown away every three months or so.
Since making the switch to a bamboo toothbrush, I have been searching for one that is 100% natural and safe without chemical treatment or bleaching, and preferably fully biodegradable one, including the bristle. I found out about Yuan Tai’s story behind the company through this interview in Mandarin and felt compelling to make these handmade toothbrushes available to more people who are just as concerned as me about reducing plastic usage and cutting down on the generation of plastic waste through something that we use every day. Hopefully, through this item that we use daily, it can set us thinking: what other disposable plastic item can I replaced next?