Colgate-Palmolive is to share the data behind the development of its recyclable toothpaste tube with its competitors. The move is part of the company’s aim to transform one of the most widely used, but difficult to recycle forms of plastics packaging.
“Colgate wants to make tubes a part of the circular economy by keeping this plastic productive and eliminating waste,” said Noel Wallace, chief executive 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 plastics.”
Wallace added that “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.”
The majority of toothpaste tubes are made from sheets of plastic laminate – typically a combination of different plastics – often sandwiched around a thin layer of aluminum. The mix of materials make the tubes impossible to recycle through conventional methods.
To create its recyclable tube, Colgate chose HDPE because the material is already widely recycled. The company’s engineers worked out how to combine different grades and thicknesses of HDPE laminate into a tube that meets recycling standards, protects the product, withstands the demands of high-speed production and remains squeezable. The development process took over five years.
Colgate developed the new tube for its Tom’s of Maine toothpaste brand. The first batch of tubes have already hit the shelves in the US and the tube switch is expected to be completed by the end of next year.
The tube has been recognised by the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR). To earn this recognition, Colgate had to prove that the tube material could be reused to make new plastic bottles and that it would successfully navigate the screens and conveyor belts used to sort recyclables. Colgate is now seeking similar recognition from Plastic Recyclers Europe.
The tube has also been welcomed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF). “It is encouraging to see Colgate innovate not only to replace today’s non-recyclable toothpaste tubes, but also open source this solution to facilitate toothpaste tube recycling around the world,” commented Sander Defruyt, New Plastics Economy lead at EMF.