Unilever introduces fully recyclable toothpaste tubes
Unilever is introducing recyclable toothpaste tubes to its oral care brands in two of its largest markets, as part of wider plans to convert its branded toothpaste portfolio to widely recyclable packaging by 2025.
Unilever’s oral care brands including Signal, Pepsodent and Closeup all look set to convert to recyclable plastic tubes by 2025.
The initiative will commence in France and India, two of Unilever’s biggest markets, where the company has engaged with waste management authorities to ensure the collection and recyclability of the new products.
Traditionally, most toothpaste tubes feature plastic and aluminium to provide flexibility, but this makes the product difficult to recycle.
Currently, some high-street retailers such as Boots and Asda are trialling in-store take-back schemes for hard-to-recycle packaging and products, such as toothpaste. However, in most instances, the product is collected as part of traditional household waste.
Unilever is making tubes from High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), which is one of the most widely recyclable plastics globally. It is also lightweighting the plastic, making it the thinnest plastic used in toothpaste production, to reduce the volumes required for production.
The new tubes have been approved by RecyClass, which sets the recyclability standard for Europe, as well as laboratories in Asia and North America.
Unilever also worked with packaging manufacturers including EPL, Amcor, Huhtamaki and Dai Nippon Indonesia (DNPI) and global recycling organisations to ensure the value chain was aligned in the creation, collection and recycling processing of the product. In France, for example, consumers can put the tubes in home recycling bins for easy disposal and collection.
Unilever’s executive vice president of, Global Skin Cleansing and Oral Care, Samir Singh, said: “Plastic pollution is undoubtedly one of the biggest environmental challenges of our time. We can see its impact on our planet every day, including the billions of toothpaste tubes dumped into landfills every year.
“That’s why I’m proud of this latest packaging innovation which will see our entire toothpaste portfolio shift to recyclable tubes by 2025. It’s been a long and challenging journey to get to this point, but we hope this transformation will inspire the wider industry to also make the change.”
Brands including Signal will also introduce more post-consumer recycled plastic into their recyclable tubes by 2022 in France and other European markets.
The consumer goods giant is striving to halve its use of virgin plastic by 2025 by reducing plastic packaging by more than 100,000 tonnes, increasing the amount of recycled plastics it uses and collecting and processing more plastic packaging than it sells.
A little over one year on from setting the target, Unilever has increased its use of PCR to around 75,000 tonnes, which accounts for 10% of the company’s total plastic footprint. Unilever is aiming to use at least 25% PCR by 2025 and expects to double the amount it uses over the next 12 months.
In related news, GSK Consumer Healthcare has committed to making more than a billion toothpaste tubes recyclable by 2025.
The company is partnering with packaging suppliers Albea and EPL Global to launch fully recyclable tubes across brands such as Sensodyne, parodontax and Aquafresh. The new tubes will be rolled out across Europe and the US and meet the standards of the US-based Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and Europe’s RecyClass.
GSK Consumer Healthcare’s vice president of sustainability Sarah McDonald said: “We are fighting every day to help eradicate preventable oral health problems and to provide people with better, more sustainable oral care solutions that don’t compromise on quality.
“We have made the commitment that 100% of our product packaging will be recyclable or reusable, where quality and safety permits, by 2025. This is just one part of our ongoing sustainability journey, in which we are working to address the environmental and societal barriers to everyday health.”