Toothpaste tubes have long frustrated green-minded consumers. The hybrid composition that makes such tubes squeezable—a mixture of laminated plastic and aluminum—also makes it impracticable to recycle most of the 20 billion tubes that consumers discard each year.
Colgate-Palmolive, which claims 41% of the global toothpaste market, poured five years of research into this puzzle, and in 2019, the effort paid off. Colgate’s new recyclable tube is made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), the recyclable plastic found in shampoo containers and milk jugs. (A key phase of the research: grinding down the tube prototypes and recycling them as new bottles.) This year, Colgate introduced the tubes in multiple brands and it will soon use them for Optic White, which alone accounts for 8.5% of U.S. toothpaste sales. The company aims to make 100% of its packaging recyclable by 2025. In the meantime, it’s sharing the HDPE design on an open-source basis, so others can adopt it too.