Colgate to launch recycling scheme for oral health products

Health and beauty giant Colgate Palmolive has unveiled plans to launch a recycling scheme for empty toothpaste tubes, used toothbrushes and dental floss containers in the US and the UK.

The company has partnered with recycling firm TerraCycle to develop a method of recycling the items, which are often not collected by local authorities due to a lack of infrastructure that can process them. Toothbrushes, for example, typically consist of a rigid plastic stick and flexible plastic bristles and grips, making them hard to recycle using traditional machinery.  

TerraCycle’s method involves washing, separating and shredding the items before melting them and forming them into plastic pellets. The pellets are then remoulded for inclusion in new plastic products such as outdoor furniture and fence posts.

“With the global plastics issue high on the agenda for all, the Colgate Oral Care Recycling Programme promotes sustainability,” Colgate UK’s general manager Philip Durocher said.

“We really encourage people to take advantage of the programme and recycle their oral care products and packaging via the programme and tell their friends and family about this new recycling initiative.”

In order to collect a consistent stream of end-of-life products and packaging for recycling, Colgate Palmolive has launched a website where organisations including schools, hospitals, local authorities, businesses and charities can sign up to host a public collection point.

Once these collection points are full, hosts are encouraged to post the contents to TerraCycle free of charge. Those who use the system are given a £1 donation for the school, charity or non-profit of their choice for every kilogram of product they return in the UK, with the rate standing at $0.02 per item in the US.

TerraCycle has committed to recycle end-of-life oral care products from any brand, in a bid to drive change outside of Colgate Palmolive’s customer base.

“Oral care products are used by all of us each and every day, so it’s one of the most frequently asked about types of products that consumers tell us they want to be able to recycle,” TerraCycle Europe’s general manager Laure Cucuron added.

Plastic partnerships

The announcement comes shortly after Kellogg forged a similar partnership with TerraCycle to develop a recycling solution for its Pringles cans in the UK.

Under the partnership, Kellogg consumers will be encouraged to send used Pringles tubes to Terracycle for recycling via Freepost from December 2018, in exchange for a charitable donation. It follows recent campaigner criticism that Pringles tubes and crisp packets were too difficult to recycle.

Similarly, PepsiCo subsidiary Walkers this year joined forces to launch the UK’s first nationwide crisp packet recycling scheme, following months of consumer protests against its hard-to-recycle packaging.

Sarah George 

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