The New High-Impact Innovation by Palmolive-Colgate and Why in the World It Matters
By Brandy B. Bischoff
This innovative product is something you use at home every single day, but not one you think much about. People worldwide throw away over one billion of them each year, and they can’t be recycled. What is it, you ask? Why, it’s your toothpaste tube!
It’s true. This tube keeps your teeth clean, your breath fresh, and your dentist happy. But it’s also making major amounts of trash. The good news is Colgate-Palmolive, a leader in the world of consumer products, is working to change this.
Why Are Plastic Toothpaste Tubes A Bad Thing?
Most toothpaste tubes are made from different kinds of plastics, forming a laminate. This laminate is then pressed around a light layer of aluminum. The aluminum helps to protect your favorite toothpaste’s flavor and added fluoride. This mix of materials can’t be recycled once it’s pressed together into a single film.
Why is this a problem? An item used by people all over the world that can’t be recycled means massive amounts of trash and harm to your health and the earth. The fact is, an estimated 20 billion tubes of toothpaste are made and thrown away annually all around the world.
What Are Single-Use Plastics?
Single-use plastics are made from a combination of different materials and chemicals made from fossil fuels. These plastics are designed to be thrown away right after use. They include things like water bottles, straws, candy wrappers, and grocery bags.
Plastic has been around for a long time, and in the 1970s it became more popular — this is because companies started to replace items made before of paper or glass. Items made of plastic, like milk jugs, were lighter than glass and cost less. These materials, while durable, are toxic, and take anywhere from 400 to 800 years to break down naturally. In the past 15 years, we produced globally about 4.1 billion tons of plastic.
Why Are Single-Use Plastics Bad for The Environment?
Sometimes we need to use single-use plastics, like when your doctor wears surgical gloves during a procedure. But most single-use plastic is used because it’s convenient, and it ends up tossed in the trash. Most of the time after only one use! These items include plastic cutlery, straws, and coffee cups.
How often do you use items like these? These products create over 150 million tons of plastic waste in the world every single year. 150 million tons! And it’s not just a problem because it sits in a landfill.
Plastic doesn’t actually break down — it just gets smaller when exposed to the sun, water, and wind. When it does, these small pieces of plastic, called microplastics, end up in our waterways, eaten by animals, and also inside of our bodies. This is dangerous and causes serious harm to our health.
Microplastics are smaller than a quarter of an inch and sometimes they’re so tiny you can’t see them at all. Ecologists think humans take in microplastics from dust in the air, drinking water, and seafood. New research shows humans could be consuming more than 100,000 microplastic particles a year.
We don’t know what health effects this has on people yet. But we do know it’s not a good thing and may have serious consequences because of the chemicals involved. Plastic itself is a passive substance, but in order to impact things like color, flexibility, and heat resistance, chemicals are often added to it. These chemicals, like bisphenol A (BPA), have negative consequences on your health.
Read more about the disturbing damage of single-use plastics here.
How Colgate-Palmolive is Leading the Way
Colgate did research for more than five years to try to create a recyclable toothpaste tube. Now, they have been recognized by the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) for creating the first of its kind! This design is big news. APR gave the tube recognition for recyclability, making it the first personal care tube to earn this award.
Colgate tested over a dozen combinations of plastics to make the new tube. These combinations ranged from six to twenty different layers. This new recyclable product allows you to easily squeeze out all the toothpaste while protecting its quality. The new tube also meets standards for intense high-speed production.
Not only can this new tube be recycled, it can also be made into other products. Colgate grounded up the tubes to make new plastic bottles — showing how they can be repurposed.
You may soon be drinking from a water bottle that used to be your toothpaste tube — amazing!
Increasing Support for the Recyclable Tube
Colgate has been recognized in North America for crafting the first recyclable tube — but there is a lot more work left. The company now begins to prove the quality of their new tube to consumers who may be hesitant to try it for the first time.
Colgate also needs to work with other producers across the globe to show the use of the new product and why it’s a good thing. They also have to grow support with recycling centers in local communities.
By the year 2025, Colgate will transition 100% to recyclable tubing. When this happens, all of its products will be in recyclable packaging. This is a huge step toward reducing waste worldwide, and it’s the hope that other companies will follow suit.
Looking Ahead to Palmolive-Colgate’s Future Plans for Plastic
Colgate’s first recyclable toothpaste tube started with just an idea. But it grew into a new product with lasting positive impacts on the health of our environment.
Even better news is learning the creators at Palmolive-Colgate don’t plan to stop there. They hope to have a large-scale impact on the health of your community by spreading the word. If other large companies who use single-use plastics, like makeup companies, start to use this new type of tubing the impact will be huge.
Take a look around your house at all the plastic products you and your family use on a daily basis. What if those products were all recyclable? The large-scale impacts would be enormous.
How Can You Make Changes to Improve Your Environment and the World?
You too have the chance to impact change, bring about innovation and create progress! What is your company doing to make changes in your environment that have a positive impact on our world?
According to Discover Magazine, “you have to think big in order to fight small.” This means that you need to think about your life and the small ways that you can have an impact. You can slow your own use of plastic, help clean up a beach, or suggest and support policies in your community and work that limit our plastic pollution.
What do your ideas look like? A recyclable toothbrush to go along with the new recyclable tube? Changing the way your company packages goods? Utilizing different materials? You can take small steps that add up to have a big effect. How about starting a Recycling Program? Or encouraging staff to only print documents that really need to be printed?
Every effort you make matters – and it all has the potential to springboard into something bigger. Bring it up, talk about it – never doubt your ability to make an impact!
For more ideas on how to stop plastic pollution and lead change in your community, check out the Ocean Blue Project website. Ocean Blue Project is a grassroots, non-profit movement dedicated to conserving the world’s oceans, beaches, and rivers. They educate and inspire action to clean-up plastic and make your world a better place to live. Sign-up for their free newsletter here!
Sanxiao Toothbrush By Colgate Found In The Pacific Ocean | Ocean Cleanup
Bio: Brandy B. Bischoff is a mother of two and a part-time writer in Virginia who strives to be a conscientious consumer. She’s dedicated to teaching her children to be good stewards of the world and everything in it.