How We Decided to
Change Our Toothpaste Tubes
Our Promise, Your Trust
"Tom's of Maine's success over time has relied on our consumers' faith in us. More than any product, more than any process, it's their trust that we share the same core values as they do — that we care about their health and satisfaction, as well as the future of our communities and the living planet we share. So it's important we keep on looking for new ways to improve how we serve them and how we do business in a sensitive and responsible way." — Peter Bright, Marketing Director
Making the Switch
In 2011 Tom's of Maine began packaging its toothpaste in plastic "laminate" tubes rather than the aluminum tubes that were part of the brand for many years.
We made the decision to switch after giving the subject lengthy, holistic consideration which included taking into account current practices of manufacturing and recycling and, most importantly, your overwhelming feedback.
Retiring an Icon
When Tom's of Maine began offering natural toothpaste in the mid-1970s, aluminum proved to be our best recyclable option available for toothpaste packaging. With removal of the plastic cap and outsert, the aluminum tube was technically able to be included in the aluminum recycling stream.
For many of you these aluminum tubes became synonymous with Tom's of Maine—a powerful brand association many companies might consider untouchable.
Tom's of Maine is not most companies. Our philosophy is continuous improvement in the goodness we deliver to our consumers. We realize that packaging materials have continued to improve, and you have given us some very compelling reasons to switch.
You, our consumers, are our most important source of input. Here's what you told us about the limitations of aluminum tubes:
- More than a ¼ of your complaints about our toothpastes were related to packaging, with 68% of those complaints related to the aluminum tubes cracking or leaking;
- Your remaining criticisms about our toothpaste packaging were generally related to difficulties handling the tube and product waste (e.g. hard to squeeze, not easy to get out all of the toothpaste, etc.).
- While the aluminum tubes are technically able to be recycled in the aluminum recycling stream, they are not being recycled. Many of you have reported that your local facilities continue to separate and exclude the aluminum tubes from the aluminum recycling stream. Also, while aluminum can deposit programs have increased in prevalence over the years, you have reported that this has reduced the availability of non-deposit aluminum collection in your communities.
Easier to Use, Easier on the Earth
In 2007 Tom's of Maine began the in-depth process to assess options for a better package alternative for our toothpaste.
In our evaluations we made sure to consider both the feedback you provided on tube usability and product waste as well as the values based Stewardship Model that has guided our decisions for many years and continues to do so today.
The results of our investigation, including consumer home-use testing among current Tom's of Maine users like you as well as a critical review of our packaging and its projected sustainability and environmental impact, indicate:
- For toothpaste, plastic Laminate tubes outperform aluminum tubes in both ease of use and our Stewardship Model beliefs;
- Current Tom's of Maine toothpaste users — and potential users — participating in testing significantly preferred plastic laminate tubes over aluminum tubes;
- The lighter plastic laminate material reduced tube weight.
- Manufacturing these plastic laminate tubes requires less energy than the manufacture of the aluminum tubes.
- Switching to these plastic laminate tubes allows us to reduce our GHG emissions, thanks to the use of raw materials with lower carbon footprint, by reducing the weight and energy required to make the tubes and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their production.
Future Recyclability of Laminate Tubes
We realize even plastic laminate tubes are not a perfect option. Recycling options for this laminate tube today are limited. But we are working on changing that!
We would like to help lead the way in creating a recycling stream for this material and have already begun to do so at our manufacturing facility.
We partnered with our tube manufacturer and identified an organization that can recycle and reuse the tube material —Illinois Tool Works (ITW™). ITW™ will recycle the tubes for reuse as pallet corner protectors and other packaging products. Presently, we are "back-hauling" (using the trucks that would otherwise leave our facility empty) materials from our manufacturing process to incorporate into this stream. As with our aluminum tubes, if you are committed to recycling, and want to join us in sending your tubes to ITW, we will happily accept your laminate tubes and will incorporate them into our recycling stream. Simply mail your empty tubes to the address below! Even better would be if you save up a bunch of empty tubes and send them all at once, to save on your shipping costs and use less energy when shipping.
Tom's of Maine
302 Lafayette Center
Atn: Consumer Department
Kennebunk, ME 04043
We are also on the path to see the introduction of post recycled plastic content into our tubes and to form partnerships with retailers to further develop this recycling stream. Stay tuned for more information.
Thank you for partnering with us and ITW to create a more robust recycling program for our PBL tubes!
Because we believe in your right to know what you are buying we do our best to share relevant information openly so you can make an informed decision.
Our boxes travel round tripBill Hetzel talks about the impact re-using boxes has had both at Tom’s of Maine and at our vendors.
Recycle all your Tom's products with TerracycleRecycle all of your Tom’s of Maine products with Terracycle and convert would-be waste materials into fun and unique products!
Recycling our productsWe strive to maximize recycled content and recyclability of our packaging! Even better, in an effort to be transparent, we have created a list that sets out what we use to make our packages and how they can be recycled.