The Colgate brand will begin its switch to recyclable packaging in Europe and North America in 2020. By 2025, it will complete needed modifications to tube-making equipment at about a dozen of its facilities around the world, according to the company.
Colgate also will share the technology behind the new tube, which is named Smile for Good and has been in development for about five years, with its competitors. The company believes standardizing recyclable tubes among all companies is a win for everyone.
"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 them," said Noel Wallace, CEO and president of Colgate-Palmolive, in a press release.
Typically, toothpaste tubes are made from sheets of multiple types of plastic laminate and a thin layer of aluminum. The material mix makes it impossible to be recycled using conventional methods.
Colgate's recyclable tube uses high-density polyethylene (HDPE), the same type of plastic used to make milk jugs and other recyclable plastic bottles. Initially, Colgate did not think this type of plastic would be flexible enough to make a squeezable tube. However, after combining different grades and thicknesses of HDPE laminate, Colgate engineers were able to create a tube that meets recycling standards, protects the product, and holds up to the demands of high-speed production while remaining easily squeezable, according to the company.
Finally, the tube has earned recognition from the Association of Plastic Recyclers by demonstrating that the tube material could be reused to make new plastic bottles and would successfully navigate the machines that sort recyclables. The company is seeking similar recognition from Plastic Recyclers Europe.