Colgate has just launched its “Smile for Good” toothpaste in Europe in a tube made with HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene), a polymer that is widely used for milk containers and other plastic bottles and is recyclable.

The tube’s body is made from a single blown film and is manufactured by Albéa.  The Colgate tube is the first to be recognised as recyclable by the APR (Association of Plastic Recyclers) and RecyClass (an initiative that works on improving the recyclability of packaging), which sets recyclability standards for North America and Europe respectively. 

Find out more about the development of the tube.

We caught up with Aude Charbonneaux, a responsible packaging expert at Albéa to find out more about challenges, opportunities and potential limitations of this tube.

What were the challenges that had to be overcome when developing this tube?  

The main challenge was to develop a recyclable tube that would offer the same properties as a traditional tube – in terms of barrier performance, haptics, shelf life and of course cost-competitiveness.  We’re glad to say we’ve succeeded!

What were the previous stumbling blocks developing a recyclable tube? 

Basically, we (and others) have been developing eco-designed tubes for years – usually lighter ones, or incorporating PCR or bio-based plastics – with additional focus on end of life for around eight years. Given the magnitude and urgency of the environmental challenge today, we are accelerating all our R&D programs towards circularity and recyclability. In other words, what we missed before was customer readiness and therefore the resources (time, people, money) we could allocate to this field. 

Is functionality or the way the tube feels any different to conventional materials?  

Not at all. Our (quantitative) tests and (quantitative & qualitative) customer feedback confirm the recyclable tube offers the same user experience, functionality and overall feel as a traditional tube.

Are there any design limitations with the new tube? 

None so far! This includes decoration, which is a major component since this is what differentiates a tube and a brand.

Is the closure also recyclable? 

The PP cap we use is technically recyclable today. Different countries set different permitted level of PP in their HDPE recycling streams, and PP caps are therefore compatible with current regulations. As recycling streams evolve, this level may go down which is why we are currently developing an new, light, HDPE cap that will be fully compatible with the tube at its end of life.