Toothbrush manufacturers in E China score big in green transition

By Xu Qing, People’s Daily

“Toothbrushes manufactured in Hangji can be found in every inhabited land.” This is written in the China Toothbrush Museum in Hangji township, Yangzhou, east China’s Jiangsu province.

Hangji, which covers only 40 square kilometers with a population of less than 40,000, is the world’s most extensive manufacturing base of oral care products and toiletries. It produces 7.5 billion toothbrushes yearly, with an annual output of more than 13 billion yuan (about $1.91 billion). One out of every three toothbrushes in the world is manufactured in the township, known as the “toothbrush capital” of China.

Many of the toothbrushes manufactured in Hangji are hotel disposables. In the past, the township had no way but to engage in price wars and extend its product line to win a share in the market, in which products were highly homogeneous. It was once trapped in a destructive competition that forced it to sell its toothbrushes at 0.1 yuan per unit.

As green production and lifestyles gained more and more public foundation, a revolution unavoidably came to producing disposable toothbrushes, which have a maximum service life of two days and run against the philosophy of green development.

Seeking opportunities and strength from green development and driving innovation in technologies and products with green philosophies, Hangji found the key to green transition.

Having a good nose for the market, toothbrush manufacturers in Hangji adjusted their development strategies promptly as lifestyles turned greener.

On July 1, 2019, Shanghai issued new regulations on managing domestic waste, demanding that hotels not provide disposables for consumers unless asked. The rules also stipulate that disposable products shall be environment-friendly.

Following the issuance of the regulations, Hangji’s manufacturers launched disposable toothbrushes with detachable heads, whose food-grade plastic handles can be recycled and made into plastic stools or trashcans. This innovative design not only promotes waste recycling and reduces pollution and waste of resources but also has created new spaces for development for enterprises.

Since 2021, many luxury hotels in Dubai have started using bamboo-handled toothbrushes that are beautifully designed and environment-friendly. This toothbrush was manufactured in Hangji.

It was easy to make the bamboo handle of the toothbrush. However, if unsuitable materials are adopted, the handle will be rough and fragile. China is known as the kingdom of bamboo. Hangji has fully used local bamboo resources and manufactured smooth and resilient handles with high-quality bamboo. The upgrading broke new ground and was a move that embodied the philosophy of green development.

Relying on independent innovation, Hangji has improved its capability in the green transition.

In cooperation with the National Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology, a toothbrush manufacturer in the township developed an environment-friendly toothbrush made of sugarcane straws generated in a sugar refinery, which is completely degradable. The toothbrush has been recommended by dental clinics in Germany, Sweden, and many other countries. 

Because of independent innovation, the Hangji manufacturer, with more than 40 years of history, has overcome the negative influence of COVID-19 and other factors and blazed a new trail that features high-end and differentiated products.

Small as they may seem, toothbrushes reflect the long-term vision for green development and embody the philosophy of innovation-driven development. The new trend of green consumption has created valuable opportunities for developing an innovative economy.

When more and more enterprises are taking action to turn the philosophy of green development into the power for innovation, creating new experiences of green consumption and leading the society toward greener lifestyles, a beautiful China featuring participatory social governance is in the making.

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