Colgate unveils recyclable toothpaste tube

Colgate-Palmolive has become the first toothpaste brand to launch a recyclable tube, and has said it will share the innovative product design with competitors.


The Smile for Good toothpaste is made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) – the same plastic used in milk bottles – and will be sold in whitening and protection varieties.

Toothpaste alone accounts for an estimated 20 billion tubes annually around the world, so sharing this latest innovation could help tackle one of the most widely forms of plastic waste.

“We want all toothpaste tubes – and eventually all kinds of tubes – to meet the same third-party recycling standards we’ve achieved,” said Colgate-Palmolive CEO Noel Wallace.

Most of today's toothpaste tubes are made from sheets of plastic laminate – usually a combination of different plastics – sandwiched around a thin layer of aluminium.

This mix of materials makes it impossible to recycle through conventional methods.

Having previously thought HDPE was too rigid to create a squeezable toothpaste tube, Colgate engineers figured out how to combine different grades and thicknesses of HDPE laminate into a tube that meets recycling standards while remaining comfortably squeezable.

The tube has recently received recognition from The Association of Plastic Recyclers and RecyClass, which set recyclability standards for North America and Europe respectively.

Colgate has also engaged with packaging and recycling stakeholders to build awareness and acceptance of the "ready-to-recycle" tube.

The company said that sharing the technology aligns with its values and ongoing work supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's New Plastics Economy Global Commitment.

“We can align on these common standards for tubes and still compete with what's inside them,” Wallace continued. “If we can standardise recyclable tubes among all companies, we all win.”

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