After 149 years, Colgate’s toothpaste tubes are finally recyclable


Colgate redesigned its toothpaste tubes so they can go into curbside recycling bins. It could eventually keep a billion tubes out of landfills each year.

Every year, Americans toss a billion tubes of Colgate toothpaste in the trash, and they eventually end up in a landfill. But this year, that could change.

Colgate’s designers have spent more than five years redesigning the brand’s toothpaste tubes so they can be recycled in curbside bins. Starting in March, these new tubes will roll out across four of Colgate’s most popular lines. The company expects every single tube in its portfolio to be recyclable in the United States in 2023, and globally in 2025. But the big question is whether consumers will be able to change their behavior and recycle their old tubes after decades of throwing them in the trash.

Colgate, which was founded in 1873 and currently dominates 34% of the toothpaste market in the United States, helped invent the category of oral care. Founder William Colgate’s first product was a toothpaste sold in glass jars. As the product became increasingly popular over the next century, the company worked to develop more convenient packaging. In the middle of the 20th century, it developed an aluminum tube; and in 1982, it developed the disposable plastic tube that is ubiquitous today. “The tubes were lighter and less expensive than the aluminum ones, and they were less likely to crack,” says Greg Corra, worldwide director of global packaging and sustainability at Colgate-Palmolive, Colgate’s parent company.

Colgate’s plastic tubes are made from a range of materials. They contain a thin layer of aluminum that keeps the toothpaste fresh and flavorful, and several different types of plastic. Most municipal recycling programs can’t recycle products made from mixed materials. “The design was focused on functionality rather than what would happen to the tube at the end of its life,” Corra says.

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