Dental Tribune International

Colgate-Palmolive develop recyclable toothpaste tube

NEW YORK, U.S.: It is estimated that globally about one billion tubes of toothpaste find their way into landfill annually. In an exciting move to curb this and to commit to a more eco-friendly business model, Colgate-Palmolive has announced that the design of the world’s first recyclable toothpaste tube has been finalized and that the company hopes to convert all of its tube packaging to recyclables by 2025.

Recently the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) announced its recognition of the new tube—an essential step in introducing it to the public. The Colgate design is the first oral care or personal care tube to earn APR recognition for recyclability. Under development for more than five years, the tube will debut under the company’s Tom’s of Maine brand in the U.S. in 2020 and roll out to select global markets under the Colgate brand at a later date.

“Building a future to smile about means finding new packaging solutions that are better for the planet, but until now there hasn’t been a way to make toothpaste tubes part of the recycling stream,” said Justin Skala, Executive Vice President, and Chief Growth and Strategy Officer for Colgate-Palmolive. “Once we’ve proven the new tube with consumers, we intend to offer the technology to the makers of plastic tubes for all kinds of products. By encouraging others to use this technology, we can have an even bigger impact and increase the long-term market viability of this solution.”

To make the recyclable tube, Colgate chose high-density polyethylene (HDPE), the widely recycled No. 2 plastic popular for bottle making. But, because HDPE is rigid, it is not well-suited for ultrathin laminate sheets and soft, squeezable tubes. According to the company, the eureka moment came when engineers working at the Colgate-Palmolive Global Technology Center in Piscataway, New Jersey, recognized that they could use more than one grade of HDPE in their designs. The team then tested a dozen different combinations, using six to 20 layers, to find the recipe that allows people to squeeze out all the toothpaste comfortably, protects the integrity of the product and meets the demands of high-speed production.

APR President Steve Alexander said, “The Association of Plastic Recyclers appreciated the opportunity to partner with Colgate on this important project. Tubes are one of the most widely used forms of plastic packaging that still cannot be recycled. There is a lot of work ahead, but we believe Colgate is off to a great start.”

The great start is due in part to a collaborative effort with partners. Among these are More Recycling, a data and technology firm that works with companies and others to navigate the recycling infrastructure and support sustainable choices, and the Recycling Partnership, which provides grants, technical assistance and communication support to states, cities and communities to help residents recycle more and better.

“Colgate people are excited about this challenge and meeting our goal of 100% recyclable packaging,” said Ann Tracy, Vice President of Global Sustainability, Environment, Occupational Health and Safety and Supply Chain Strategy. “We’re committed to using less plastic—and more recycled material—in our packaging. We’re helping to strengthen recycling by supporting the Closed Loop Fund and other efforts. And we’re exploring new ingredients and models, including TerraCycle’s Loop initiative for reusable, refillable packaging.”

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