Colgate launches first recyclable toothpaste tube

Colgate has launched an ‘industry-first’ recyclable toothpaste tube, as part of the company’s aim for 100 per cent of its packaging to be recyclable by 2025. 

Colgate's new recyclable toothpaste tube
Colgate's 'Smile for Good' toothpaste

Whilst most toothpaste tubes are currently non-recyclable, Colgate’s new ‘Smile for Good’ tube is made from High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) – the plastic commonly used in plastic milk bottles – and can be placed in the normal recycling stream along with other recyclable plastic products. The toothpaste tube has recently received recognition from the North American Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and RecyClass, and is widely recycled across the UK.

If a local authority does not recycle HDPE, Colgate encourages consumers to take their used toothpaste tubes to be recycled through Colgate’s TerraCycle Oral Care Recycling Programme, which has public drop-off locations across the country.

The Smile for Good toothpaste, which is available in ‘protection’ and ‘whitening’ varieties, is also the first toothpaste to list each ingredient and explain their purpose on the product’s packaging. In line with the company’s commitment to sustainability, the product is certified by the Vegan Society, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and EcoCert.

Standardising recyclable tubes

With around 20 billion toothpaste tubes entering the waste stream each year, Colgate plans to share its new technology with its competitors in order to improve toothpaste tube recyclability across the market.

Noel Wallace, Chief Executive Officer and President of Colgate-Palmolive, said: “Colgate wants to make tubes a part of the circular economy by keeping this plastic productive and eliminating waste. 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.”

Helen Bird, Strategic Engagement Manager at the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), said: “It is encouraging to see a major brand making efforts to design plastic packaging that is more easily recyclable. It is important that changes like this are made in collaboration with other partners in the supply chain, to ensure that the packaging can be recycled within our current infrastructure. It should also be labelled clearly so that citizens know how to dispose of it.”

Simplifying recycling

Although the new toothpaste tube is widely recycled by local authorities across the UK – and can be recycled through TerraCycle if otherwise – the On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) scheme is set to switch from its current labels, ‘Widely Recycled’, ‘Check Locally’ and ‘Not Yet Recycled’, to a binary labelling system, which will include just two labels: ‘Recycle’ or ‘Don’t Recycle’.

The move to a simpler labelling system reflects the government’s desire to boost recycling rates by reducing confusion over what can and cannot be recycled. As proposed in the Resources and Waste Strategy, the government is set to bring in measures for recycling consistency by introducing requirements for local authorities to collect a set of core recyclable materials by 2023.

The government’s recent consultation on consistency stated that HDPE bottles and plastic pots, tubs and trays would be included in the list of required materials, although it’s unclear whether the new HDPE toothpaste tube will be covered. 

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