Unilever’s oral care brands including Signal, Pepsodent and Closeup have announced plans to convert their entire global toothpaste portfolio to recyclable tubes by 2025.
After four years of development, the recyclable tubes will be available later this year in two of Unilever’s biggest oral care markets: France and India. First launching in France with the company’s leading oral care brand Signal, the new tubes will be rolled out across its biggest range, Integral 8, which represents over a third (35%) of Unilever’s toothpaste portfolio in the country.
Traditionally, most toothpaste tubes are made from a combination of plastic and aluminium, which gives the packaging its flexibility but also makes it difficult to recycle. Instead of aluminium, the new tubes will use a material made mostly of High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE).
Unilever says that they will also use the thinnest plastic material available on the toothpaste market at 220-microns, thus reducing the amount of plastic needed for each tube. With the goal of encouraging wider industry change, the innovation will be made available for other companies to adopt.
The design has been approved by RecyClass, which sets the recyclability standard for Europe, as well as laboratories in Asia and North America. Meeting these requirements reportedly means that the new tubes can be recycled within standard HDPE recycling streams.
Working in partnership to drive innovation, Unilever’s oral care brands partnered with multiple global packaging manufacturers including EPL (formerly Essel Propack), Amcor, Huhtamaki and Dai Nippon Indonesia (DNPI).
Babu Cherian, R&D oral care packaging director at Unilever, said: “Recyclable tubes mark a key milestone in our packaging journey and, more significantly, they have the potential to transform the whole oral care industry. Together with our manufacturing partners, we’re making the new design available to any producers interested in adopting the new material, with the ambition to accelerate industry change.”
Unilever is working with global recycling organisations, in the hopes of helping to ensure that the new tubes are collected and recycled. This will be the case in France, where consumers can put the packs in their home recycling bin.
Brands including Signal also plan to introduce more PCR (post-consumer recycled) plastic into their recyclable tubes by 2022 in France and other European markets.
More broadly, the innovation contributes to Unilever’s commitment to ensure that 100% of its plastic packaging is designed to be reusable, recyclable or compostable, and its ambition to help collect and process more of the plastic packaging that it sells.