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Colgate debuts first recyclable toothpaste tube

Cortney Moore

Colgate has developed the first recyclable toothpaste tube.

The Association of Plastic Recyclers recognized the innovative container that will help toothbrushers do their part to save the planet. And Colgate intends to offer the technology to others once the tube has been accepted by consumers, according to the company.

“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,” Justin Skala, former chief growth and strategy officer for Colgate-Palmolive, said in a statement.

The new tube, which has been named Smile for Good, was under development for over five years. It is set to debut in 2020 throughout the U.S. under the Colgate brand Tom’s of Maine. The rollout will begin in select global markets while the company aims to become 100 percent recyclable packaging by 2025, according to the release.

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“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," Skala said. By encouraging others to use this technology, we can have an even bigger impact and increase the long-term market viability of this solution.”

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The Smile for Good tube is made from high-density polyethylene, which is the same plastic that is commonly used in recyclable milk bottles. This first step by Colgate may help to push the oral care industry. Toothpaste alone is said to be responsible for an estimated 20 billion tubes annually around the world, according to Colgate.

“The Association of Plastic Recyclers appreciated the opportunity to partner with Colgate on this important project,” said Steve Alexander, president of the APR. “Tubes are one of the most widely used forms of plastic packaging that still cannot be recycled. There is a lot of work ahead, but we believe Colgate is off to a great start.”

To prove Smile for Good’s recyclability to the association, Colgate ground up its tubes and successfully made new plastic bottles.

The plastic recyclers association has also recognized Colgate’s washable ink shrink sleeve on its Palmolive Oxy dish wash bottles last year for its recyclable innovation, but the new tube is a first of its kind in the oral care industry to be recognized.

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Outside of developing innovative packaging, Colgate is teaming up with several recycling groups to raise awareness and encourage consumers to give their toothpaste tubes a second life. In particular, Colgate announced it is partnering with data and technology firm More Recycling to navigate infrastructure and support sustainability.

The company is also seeking out help from Recycling Partnership, a nonprofit organization that provides grants, technical assistance and residential communication support to get people to recycle more often and efficiently.

“Colgate people are excited about this challenge and meeting our goal of 100 percent recyclable packaging,” said Ann Tracy, vice president of global sustainability, environmental occupational health and safety and supply chain strategy for Colgate-Palmolive. “We’re committed to using less plastic – and more recycled material – in our packaging."

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