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Recyclable Toothpaste Tubes Have Arrived

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Each year, some 20 billion empty toothpaste and personal-care product tubes make their way from consumer homes to the landfill. Toothpaste and personal-care product tubes are made using a blend of sheets and plastic laminate around a layer of aluminum. While this mixture of materials keeps the product fresh and intact, the blended and wrapped design means tubes cannot be recycled or reused. That is, until now.

Recyclable Tubes are Here

In a recent press release, Colgate announced it has designed a “first-of-its-kind” recyclable toothpaste tube that is poised to change industry standards. Following five years of development, Colgate recyclable toothpaste tube is the first oral care or personal-care tube to receive the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) Critical Guidance Recognition for Recyclability. The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) is a national trade association representing companies who acquire, reprocess, and sell the output of more than 90% of the post-consumer plastic processing capacity in North America. The APR sets recycling guidelines for North America and their membership includes independent recycling companies of all sizes, processing numerous resins. 

Colgate is a member of the APR and their newly designed tube has been publicly recognized by the Association. This recognition is an essential step to bringing the tubes to the broader market.

How to Recycle

Initially, Colgate tried to create the new tubes using high-density polyethylene (HDPE). After discovering that HDPE was too rigid and not squeezable enough for toothpaste, they compiled multiple grades HDPE to create a more flexible and squeezable tube that can also meet production demands.

The recyclable tube is part of a larger effort made by Colgate to render all their packaging recyclable by 2025.

To ensure the new tubes could endure the rigorous recycling process, Colgate tracked their prototypes using RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags, sometimes called Smart barcodes, as they traveled through the sorting screens and along conveyer belts in material recovery facilities (MRFs). Colgate has also demonstrated that the new tubes can be ground down and made into new plastic bottles.

APR President Steve Alexander says, “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 hat still cannot be recycled. There is a lot of work ahead, but we believe Colgate is off to a great start.”

Going to Market

In 2020, recyclable toothpaste tubes will be available for consumer purchase under Colgate’s brand, Tom’s of Maine, and will be available to various global markets under the Colgate brand soon after. 

Next, Colgate will be turning its attention to international recycling regulators, seeking their approval in order to broaden acceptance and use of the new, recyclable tubes around the world. Meanwhile, the company is generating awareness and support for the tubes among reclaimers, municipalities, and MRFs by partnering with local groups to help spread the word and improve recycling infrastructures and practices. 

Justin Skala, Executive Vice president, Chief Growth and Strategy Officer for Colgate-Palmolive, said the company will expand availability of the new tube to others as well. “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.”

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Until next time!

CDA Oasis Team

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