Toothpaste in recyclable tube

Publication date: October 17, 2022
Organisation: Colgate-Palmolive

Colgate-Palmolive is converting its entire toothpaste tube range to recyclable polyethylene tubes as part of its brand purpose of reimagining a healthier future. The American multinational shares the new packaging technology with other manufacturers free of charge.

Toothpaste in recyclable tube

Every year, over twenty billion toothpaste tubes are produced and are not part of the circular economy. Recycling is very difficult because they contain several layers of material, including aluminum. Colgate's new tube consists mainly of HDPE, also known as #2 plastic. This can be collected and recycled with other HDPE rigid plastics. Because more than one type of HDPE is used, the tube allows consumers to squeeze it empty properly.

Colgate-Palmolive’s tube is the first to be recognized by external authorities, specifically RecyClass, which sets the recyclability standard for Europe. The cap of the toothpaste is made of polypropylene (#5 plastic). This should be fixed to or separate from the tube, depending on the recycling rules in the country concerned. Colgate is assessing caps made of HDPE, which would improve the recyclability due to the fact that the packaging would only be made of one plastic (HDPE) and it is easier to recycle the cap on the tube.

Theoretically, the tubes are recyclable in all countries where rigid HDPE plastics are collected. However, there are still some challenges. Recovery facilities vary from country to country, and small sizes such as toddler or trial tubes do not always make it through sorting facilities. To make it work as well as possible in practice, Colgate-Palmolive is in close consultation with materials and recycling organizations on this subject in various countries.

Recycling messaging and the #2 HDPE Resin Identification Code on the packaging reminds consumers that the tube can be recycled along with plastic bottles, without additional handling such as cleaning. It is also a call for the industry to join in the innovation, so that recyclable tubes become the standard as soon as possible. Colgate is therefore selflessly sharing the new production technology with packaging manufacturers, retailers and competitors, for example through webinars and collaborative working groups.

According to Bloomberg and Euromonitor, Colgate-Palmolive owned more than a third of the global market with their tubes by 2020 and aims for all toothpaste tubes on the market - and over time all types of tubes - to be recyclable by 2025. By the end of this year, all Colgate tubes in Europe will be recyclable. Another of Colgate's goals is to use only 100 percent recyclable, reuseable, or compostable packaging by 2025.

Neopac, one of the world's largest tube producers, now also has a tube on the market made entirely of (HD)PE as do many additional tube manufacturers.