Look around your bathroom and you'll likely find a lot of plastic that can't be recycled, including toothbrushes, floss containers and floss itself, feminine products, deodorant containers, and toothpaste tubes. The latter of these tends to be especially confounding to recycle because it's hard to tell what materials are even used to make these tubes.
So, are toothpaste tubes recyclable, and can they go anywhere beyond the landfill once they're empty? Learn how to dispose of your old toothpaste tubes and what recycling options you have.
What Are Toothpaste Tubes Made Of?
Most toothpaste tubes are made of a combination of different plastics surrounding a layer of aluminum, as Colgate (Tom's of Maine's parent company) explains in an article for Recycling Today. That layer of aluminum is what makes the tubes able to fold or roll and stay in place. But taking these two materials apart and separating them into useful components is hard.
Colgate reports that twenty billion toothpaste tubes are manufactured across the globe each year. With a number that high, clearly, it would be best to be able to recycle these toothpaste tubes than to send them to landfills.
New Recyclable Toothpaste Tubes
Big news! Tom's of Maine and Colgate have changed the answer to the question, "are toothpaste tubes recyclable?" Tom's of Maine was the first brand within Colgate to launch the first of its kind recyclable toothpaste tube. Colgate brands around the world will transition to recyclable tubes through 2025.
This new tube uses high-density polyethylene plastic (#2), which continues to have a strong recycling stream and is the same material as most laundry detergent bottles. However, making a tube from a single type of plastic that is technically recyclable is just part of the process.
Colgate is now building awareness and support among other recycling stakeholders: the Materials Recovery Facilities that sort recyclables, the Reclaimers that produce resin from recycled plastic, the municipalities that operate recycling programs, and others.
Other Ways to Recycle or Reuse Toothpaste Tubes
Keep an eye out for recycling instructions on Colgate and other brand tubes. Make sure only recycle tubes that are clearly marked for recycling. Tubes are undergoing a transition in recycling efforts, so be conscious before you toss a tube into the trash or recycling.
If your community accepts HDPE #2 packaging, as an example, then your tubes are recyclable in that stream. For tubes that are not yet recyclable in your curbside bin, thanks to the Tom's of Maine partnership with TerraCycle, you can recycle them now! You can toss all your toothpaste tubes, toothbrushes, floss containers, deodorant containers, soap packaging, and mouthwash bottles into a single box and mail them away (for free!) for proper processing.
Alternatively, consider creating something new with that old toothpaste tube. For example, Lemon Lime Adventures partnered with Tom's of Maine a few years ago to make some wonderful crafts with used toothpaste tubes, including a crayon holder, a wire fastener, and a little bin that holds your toothbrushes and toothpaste.
In addition, TipHero provides directions on how to reuse the entire tube to hold other pastes or play jokes on friends (mayo for toothpaste on April Fools' Day, anyone?). SreeCrafts also made a video tutorial showing how to make toothpaste tube flowers.
What else can your family create with that bendable tube? Consider this a challenge and get the kids involved in the craft project!
Check out other ways to recycle or recreate your household items on the Thinking Sustainably board by @tomsofmaine on Pinterest!
The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.
Why It's Good
Many plastics aren't recyclable and end up in landfills, but you have options when it comes to your toothpaste tube. Consider buying a recyclable product, recycling your tube through TerraCycle, or upcycling it as a fun project!