Colgate has found a way to make toothpaste a part of the solution for a healthier planet. The company has finalized the design of a first-of-its kind recyclable toothpaste tube that sets a new standard in the industry. The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) last week announced its recognition of the new tube – an essential step in bringing 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. Roll out to select global markets under the Colgate brand will follow. The company reportedly plans to fully convert to recyclable tubes by 2025, when all of its products will be in 100% recyclable packaging.
“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, 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.”
Development of the Recyclable Tube
Most toothpaste tubes are made from sheets of plastic laminate – usually a combination of different plastics – often sandwiched around a thin layer of aluminum that protects the toothpaste’s flavor and fluoride. The mix of materials is pressed together into a single film, making it impossible to recycle through conventional methods.
To make a recyclable tube, Colgate chose high-density polyethylene (HDPE), the widely recycled “No. 2” plastic popular for bottle making. But because HDPE is rigid, it isn’t well suited for ultra-thin laminate sheets and soft, squeezable tubes.
Colgate’s “eureka moment” came when Company packaging engineers working at its Piscataway, NJ, technology campus recognized that they could use more than one grade of HDPE in their designs. The team then tested a dozen different combinations – using from six to 20 layers – to find the recipe that allows people to comfortably squeeze out all the toothpaste, protects the integrity of the product, and meets the demands of high-speed production.
To achieve APR recognition, Colgate also conducted tests to show that its toothpaste tube could navigate the screens and conveyor belts at the critically important Materials Recovery Facilities that sort recyclables. Colgate used Radio Frequency Identification tags to track the tubes and prove they would be properly sorted with plastic bottles. And to demonstrate that the recyclable tube material could be repurposed after recycling – another critical part of gaining APR recognition – the Company ground up the tubes to successfully make new plastic bottles.
For more information, vist www.colgatepalmolive.com.