Tom's of Maine sustainable packaging: recyclable toothpaste tube

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It's all in the Tube

Take a quick peek into the story behind
our recyclable toothpaste tube.

Frequently Asked Questions

This innovation in recycling changes things for the better, but it’s only the beginning. And we know that change often brings questions. The answers to the following FAQs can help you, recycling facilities and other brands alike understand how recyclable tubes can be accepted and processed to make the biggest impact.

  • 1. How do I recycle the tube? Do I need to cut open and remove all the leftover toothpaste in the tube, or rinse it out somehow?

     

    First, check to be sure that your tube has this flag on it:

    Recyclable tube logo

    Our transition to the recyclable tube is happening throughout 2019 and 2020, so not all tubes will immediately be recyclable. It's important that if your tube does not have this flag on it that you don't put it into your recycling bin.

    Your tube has the flag above on it? Great! Getting your tube ready for recycling is easy: simply squeeze out as much of the toothpaste from the tube as you can, replace the cap, and place the tube in your recycling bin. The Tom's of Maine toothpaste tube can be put into your household recycling bin for curbside recycling if your community accepts #2 HDPE plastic. #2 plastic is a commonly recycled plastic and is what many laundry detergent bottles and milk jugs are made from.

    Please don't cut open the toothpaste tube to try and remove excess toothpaste! During the processing of the tube at the recycling facility, the tube is ground up and goes through a "rinsing" process, where all the residual toothpaste is washed off of the plastic. So there's no need for you to do any rinsing at home. 

  • 2. What are you doing to ensure these tubes are accepted by recycling facilities?

    Now that we've solved technical recyclability, acceptance by sorting facilities and reprocessors is our current focus. These important groups are key to turning "recyclable" into "recycled," and we are working with them both individually and through collaborative groups, including the APR, More Recycling, and The Recycling Partnership. We've tested the sortability of tubes both using APR's Size Sortability Protocols, as well as through three actual MRFs (sorting facilities); data from these efforts shows that our two main sizes of tubes are able to make it through to the container line successfully, and there is minimal mis-sorting. 

    We are also being transparent about this work so that other tube brands and manufacturers will transition quickly, because sorting facilities are not generally equipped to be able to tell the difference between a recyclable and non-recyclable one. Once there is a critical mass of recyclable tubes in the market, we can then turn our focus to working with cities and municipalities on how to best change communications to residents about tube acceptance.

  • 3. Are the caps recyclable?

    The caps are made of a different plastic than the tube; however, as with bottles, recyclers are used to dealing with caps made from a different resin and encourage replacing the cap to help prevent litter. We will continue to research conversion to an HDPE cap.

  • 4. Why are some of your tubes recyclable while others aren’t?

    The plan is for all of our full size tubes to be recyclable by the end of 2020 and our toothpastes will transition into the recyclable tube by sub-brand. During this transition, some of our toothpastes will be in the recyclable tube while others won't have transitioned yet. Additionally, it will take time for other tube manufacturers to also make the transition. When in doubt, throw it out!

  • 5. Is this also biodegradable?

    Plastic is not designed to be biodegradable. The #2 HDPE plastic used in our tubes is designed to be "circular," so that the material can be re-processed into new products and packaging.

  • 6. Will you still partner with TerraCycle?

    Yes, TerraCycle is still a partner with Tom's of Maine to offer recycling for our smaller toothpaste tubes, toothpaste tubes that are not yet recyclable, toothbrushes, and for packaging we use for our other products that are not recyclable in municipal recycling programs.

  • 7. What problem is this solving? Isn't plastic still terrible for the environment?

    We are making our recyclable tube with #2 HDPE, which continues to have a strong recycling stream for packaging as well as other uses. It is also a common type of plastic used by other personal care and beauty brands, as well as home care and food brands, which is why we are collaborating with the broader industry, to include retailers.

    At Tom's of Maine, we have a commitment to lessen our product and packaging waste and improve recyclability of our packaging material as part of our Goodness Goals . We continue to work on ways to minimize the environmental impact that both our products and packaging have on our natural environment.

  • 8. I don’t have recycling in my community. What options do I have?

    Recycling practices vary by municipality and not all types of materials are accepted in all towns. If your town doesn't accept #2 plastic, we encourage you to recycle your toothpaste tubes through Terracycle