Today’s Solutions: November 29, 2022

Some form of toothpaste is necessary for keeping our teeth clean and healthy, however, toothpaste in its most common packaging—the tube—does not do the same for our environment.

Toothpaste tubes, like so many other items, are notoriously difficult to recycle. This is due to the mix of plastic and aluminum that the tubes are made of. In the U.S. alone, approximately one billion toothpaste tubes end up in a landfill every year.

Now that more and more people are realizing the devastating damage everyday human practices (like using toothpaste!) inflict on our planet, consumers and businesses alike are rallying for a zero-waste, circular economy. Colgate, one of the world’s most popular toothpaste brands, is joining this fight.

Back in 2020, we wrote about Colgate’s “Smile for Good” toothpaste line that features a certified vegan recipe sustainably packaged in a 100 percent recyclable tube, and the company’s desire to make all of their toothpaste tubes fully recyclable by 2025.

The tubes in the “Smile for Good” range are made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is still plastic and non-biodegradable, but exponentially easier to recycle. HDPE has been historically deemed not malleable enough to be appropriate for a tube that’s meant to be squeezed, so the company’s engineering team has since been trying to overcome this problem.

Thankfully, their hard work has paid off and the company is now redesigning four of its best-selling lines with recyclable packaging. If it all goes to plan, every Colgate product on the market will be entirely recyclable by 2023, beating their original goal by two whole years!

Based on sales data from 2018, if every consumer was diligent in recycling their Colgate toothpaste tube, almost 80 million tubes of toothpaste would be diverted from landfills annually.

Colgate has generously made its recyclable design openly available for other toothpaste brands to use so that the entire oral hygiene industry can work together to cut down on plastic waste.

Although the solution isn’t perfect, it certainly is a step in the right direction. Colgate-Palmolive’s director of global packaging and sustainability Greg Corra has acknowledged that the company is far from being completely environmentally friendly but promises that the team is actively finding ways to keep improving, like developing refillable and compostable toothpaste packaging.

“We’ve got nine million tubes around the world to worry about right now, so we had to do something now,” Corra told Fast Company. “But we are looking into next-generation materials. We’ve got several irons in the fire.”

Starting in March, Colgate will be offering its Total Whitening, Cavity Protection, Max Fresh Cool, and Optic White ranges in recyclable tubes.

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