Colgate-Palmolive has begun the switch to a first-of-its-kind recyclable toothpaste tube and now wants to enlist other companies to follow its lead. Colgate delivered to retailers the first tube recognised by the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) – Antiplaque & Whitening toothpaste under the company’s Tom’s of Maine brand. Tom’s will complete the switch in 2020, when the Colgate brand will start the transition in Europe and North America. By 2025, the company will complete needed modifications to tube-making equipment at more than a dozen of its facilities around the world.
Now, Colgate is sharing its innovative technology with competitors as part of its campaign to transform one of the most widely used forms of plastic packaging that until now could not be recycled.
“Colgate wants to make tubes a part of the circular economy by keeping this plastic productive and eliminating waste,” said Noel Wallace, Chief Executive Officer and President of Colgate-Palmolive. “This advancement can make a significant difference in the marketplace today as we test new packaging materials, product formats and refillable models to reduce our use of plastic.”
“If we can standardise recyclable tubes among all companies, we all win. We want all toothpaste tubes — and eventually all kinds of tubes — to meet the same third-party recycling standards that we’ve achieved. We can align on these common standards for tubes and still compete with what’s inside them.”
Wallace said the decision to freely share the tube technology aligns with the company’s values and sustainability goals. It also contributes to its ongoing work supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. The Foundation’s mission is to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.
Most of today’s toothpaste tubes are made from sheets of plastic laminate – usually a combination of different plastics – often sandwiched around a thin layer of aluminum. The mix of materials makes it impossible to recycle through conventional methods.
To make its recyclable tube, Colgate chose High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), the “No. 2” plastic used to make milk jugs and other plastic bottles. Chosen because it is already widely recycled, HDPE had been thought to be too rigid to make a squeezable tube. Colgate engineers figured out how to combine different grades and thicknesses of HDPE laminate into a tube that meets recycling standards, protects the product and holds up to the demands of high-speed production, all while remaining comfortably squeezable.