Sustainable personal care packaging as been in the news a lot lately, thanks to initiatives from the recycling company TeraCycle and the plastic manufacturer Loop Industries. A fact that is certainly not lost on the team at Colgate.
“We’re committed to using less plastic – and more recycled material – in our packaging. We’re helping to strengthen recycling by supporting the Closed Loop Fund and other efforts. And we’re exploring new ingredients and models, including TerraCycle’s Loop initiative for reusable, refillable packaging,” says Ann Tracy, vice president of global sustainability, environmental and occupational health sciences, and supply chain strategy, in a press release about the new Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) – recognized tube.
It’s about more than just tubes
“Making a recyclable tube is only part of the challenge,” acknowledges Colgate in the release. “While APR provides guidelines for recyclability in North America, Colgate will need to engage similar organizations in other parts of the world as it expands use of its new tube. It must also build awareness and support among other recycling stakeholders: the materials recovery facilities that sort recyclables, the reclaimers that produce resin from recycled plastic, the municipalities that operate recycling programs, and others.”
Globally, recycling is indeed an underdeveloped industry, due in large part to the lack of true industrial market demand for recycled plastic materials, including packaging. Now, according to Tracy, “Colgate people are excited about this challenge and meeting our goal of100% recyclable packaging.”
But, it is about tubes
To meet its self-imposed deadlines for recyclable toothpaste tubes, Colgate has to make its “toothpaste tubes part of the recycling stream,” notes Justin Skala, executive vice president and chief growth and strategy officer for Colgate-Palmolive.
And if Colgate has its way, the new recyclable tube design will not only be an industry standard in oral care but across the board for personal care products and beyond: “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 tells the press. “By encouraging others to use this technology,” he believes the company can have “an even bigger impact and increase the long-term market viability of this solution.”
About those tubes
The tube that Colgate packaging engineers have designed is comprised of a combination of various grades of high-density polyethylene resin (HDPR) plastics. According to the press release, the team experimented with tubes made from as few a 6 layers of HDPR and as many as 20 layers.
Colgate’s idea all along was to replicate in form and function conventional tubes, “made from sheets of plastic laminate – usually a combination of different plastics – often sandwiched around a thin layer of aluminum that protects the toothpaste’s flavor and fluoride. [That] mix of materials…pressed together into a single film, [makes] it impossible to recycle through conventional methods,” as the press release explains.
Deanna Utroske, CosmeticsDesign.com Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.