Procter & Gamble develops recyclable toothpaste tube

The new recyclable, HDPE packaging solution will be used for three toothpaste brands—Crest, Oral-B and Blend-a-med—in North America and Europe.

December 1, 2020

Procter & Gamble Oral Care, Cincinnati, has released its newest packaging across its Crest, Oral-B and Blend-a-med toothpaste brands. The three brands now feature recyclable high-density polyethylene (HDPE) toothpaste tubes. The company says the switch to recyclable toothpaste tubes will start in January 2021 and will continue until full conversion by 2025.

According to a news release from Procter & Gamble Oral Care, toothpaste tubes feature multimaterial construction, making them difficult to recycle. The company says its new solution, an HDPE tube, provides the same product protection as current tubes that also is certified by North American and European recycling bodies to be compatible with existing recycling technologies. According to Procter & Gamble, the new tubes can be recycled where collection programs exist.

Procter & Gamble says this new packaging design is in line with the company’s P&G Ambition 2030 commitments of achieving 100 percent recyclable or reusable packaging.

The company adds that it is in discussions with several HDPE tube suppliers and has reached an agreement with France-based Albéa to start using its proprietary Greenleaf Generation 2 tube technology, which enables the tubes to be recyclable wherever collection programs are active. Greenleaf Generation 2 tubes are recognized by the North American Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) as well as by RecyClass and SUEZ.circpack in Europe and can be recycled within the existing HDPE bottles recycling stream. To earn APR recognition, it was demonstrated that the toothpaste tubes could be converted into quality postconsumer HDPE resin and then reused to make new plastic bottles.

RecyClass is an independent cross-industry platform that assesses material recyclability and provides specific recommendations on how to improve packaging design to fit current recycling technologies in Europe. The platform certifies that Procter & Gamble’s toothpaste tube technology is considered to be compatible with HDPE recycling. It also certifies that both Procter & Gamble’s toothpaste tubes with cap product will not have a negative impact on the current European HDPE container recycling.

“Toothpaste tubes are not largely recyclable today; with the RecyClass certification for Albéa’s Greenleaf Generation 2 technology used by P&G, however, we are on the right track towards increasing both the design for recycling awareness for tubes as well as increasing recycling quality and rates for the HDPE rigids stream in Europe,” says Paolo Glerean, RecyClass chairman.

In addition, Procter & Gamble says the sortability of the tubes has been tested by SUEZ.circpack following the RecyClass sorting protocol, confirming that the tubes will flow into the correct stream and be recycled with the HDPE materials.

“Accurate sorting is an essential step to ensure recycling. That is why SUEZ.circpack performed sorting tests in a fully operational sorting facility in Germany. The facility and the technologies in place are very common for the European recycling industry. The results showed that the packaging could be correctly sorted into the HDPE material flow. The recognition of the plastic with near-infrared (NIR) technology was accurate and consistent,” says Vincent Mooij, head of SUEZ.circpack.

Last year, Colgate-Palmolive announced that it had developed a recyclable toothpaste tube made from HDPE that received APR recognition for recyclability. That tube was under development for more than five years and debuted under Colgate’s Tom’s of Maine brand in the U.S. this year. The company says it plans to fully convert to recyclable tubes by 2025.