The Multi-national FMCG giant plans to convert its entire global toothpaste portfolio to recyclable tubes by 2025, starting with France and India – its two largest markets.
The problem with toothpaste is that there’s hardly any socially acceptable alternative to it. Sure, you could ditch bottled water and straws in a bid to save the environment. You could swear off Coca-Cola *wink-wink Ronaldo* because it’s the world’s biggest plastics polluter. You could even ditch plastic toothbrushes for recycled/bamboo ones… but how do you avoid toothpaste? There isn’t really a concrete, well-accepted alternative to it, and given how toothpaste is something the entire world uses at least once every day, it just results in thousands of tonnes of waste every year in the form of discarded toothpaste tubes. (1.5 billion tubes each year globally, according to some reports)
Unilever seems to be taking heed of this burgeoning waste problem, and after 4 years of research and development, is launching their first entirely recyclable toothpaste tube. Traditionally, toothpaste tubes have been made out of plastic, with an inner aluminum lining, to give it flexibility while keeping it food-safe and allowing it to have a higher shelf life. Unilever’s latest toothpaste tube will be made almost entirely out of HDPE – one of the most recyclable plastics there is. “It will also be the thinnest plastic material available on the toothpaste market at 220-microns, which will reduce the amount of plastic needed for each tube. To encourage wider industry change, the innovation will be made available for other companies to adopt”, mentions Unilever’s website.
Recycling HDPE is rather simple and can (on a basic level) even be done by consumers. However, Unilever’s approach will involve a much more robust supply and recycling chain. Not only are the tubes designed to be recyclable, but Unilever also claims it is working with multiple global recycling organizations to help ensure that the new tubes are collected and recycled; starting with France, where consumers can put the new tubes in their home recycling bin ready to be collected and turned into new products. The pilot project will begin with France, being implemented with Unilever’s oral-care brand Signal, and will make its way to India by the end of the year with Pepsodent and CloseUp, the company’s India-based brands. Samir Singh, Executive Vice President, Global Skin Cleansing and Oral Care said that Unilever will commit to ensuring that Unilever’s entire toothpaste portfolio shifts to the recyclable tubes by 2025.