Plastic waste is one of the main culprits of environmental pollution, harming ecosystems and taking many years to fully break down. Colgate-Palmolive has committed to eliminating a substantial chunk of its plastic waste by 2025 with an eye towards substantially reducing its environmental impact. Its main challenge: to develop a truly recyclable toothpaste tube.
Approaches from every angle
Colgate-Palmolive aims to convert its entire portfolio by 2025 in order to do its part to drive the circular economy. Its plastic strategy focuses on three areas: the possibility of using new materials; moving its packaging to be 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable; and developing other ways to deliver its products with potentially less packaging.
In addition to developing a fully recyclable toothpaste tube, Colgate-Palmolive is exploring formats other than paste to deliver the same benefits for oral health, currently testing tablet cleaning products.
The recyclable toothpaste tube
Most toothpaste tubes are made from plastic and aluminium, making them almost impossible to recycle. In 2019, Colgate-Palmolive released a new type of plastic tube with the same kind of recyclable plastic used to manufacture plastic bottles. The tube can be recycled without any adjustments or additional investments to the current recycling infrastructure. The core challenge was to achieve the familiar easy squeeze of a toothpaste tube while using HDPE plastic, which it successfully achieved after five years of intense development.
In order to encourage the adoption of recyclable packaging across the consumer packaged goods industry, Colgate-Palmolive is sharing its recyclable tube technology with third parties to make it easier for companies to make the switch.
Building momentum for change
Building on ongoing efforts to help people make small, sustainable changes for the better, the transition to recyclable tubes improves the sustainability profile of Colgate-Palmolive products. Colgate-Palmolive is collaborating with associations and retailers across Europe in order to speed the industry’s sustainability transformation. The company is a long-standing partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation initiative for a New Plastics Economy.
In 2020, Colgate-Palmolive was part of a group of consumer brands and corporate foundations to invest $54 million with Closed Loop Partners' infrastructure fund to support additional recycling infrastructure and spur growth and technological innovation around end markets for post-consumer materials across North America.