Recyclable tubes will be available later this year in France and India, two of Unilever's largest oral care markets. Traditionally, most toothpaste tubes are made from a combination of plastic and aluminum, which gives the packaging flexibility, but also makes recycling difficult. The new tubes will use a material made mainly of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), which is one of the most recyclable plastics in the world. It will also be the thinnest plastic material available on the toothpaste market, with 220 microns, which will reduce the amount of plastic needed for each tube.
After four years of development, Signal, Pepsodent and Closeup, the main brands of Unilever toothpaste, should phase out their non-recyclable toothpaste tubes. They will be exchanged for High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), a widely recyclable plastic.
Babu Cherian, R&D Oral Care Packaging Director at Unilever said: “Recyclable tubes mark a key milestone in our packaging journey and, more significantly, they have the potential to transform the whole oral care industry. Together with our manufacturing partners, we’re making the new design available to any producers interested in adopting the new material, with the ambition to accelerate industry change.”
To drive further change across the waste management industry, Unilever is working with global recycling organisations to help ensure that the new tubes are collected and recycled. This will be the case in France, where consumers can put the new tubes in their home recycling bin ready to be collected and turned into new products.
The company guarantees that this is only the start of Unilever’s oral care journey. Brands including Signal also plan to introduce more PCR (post-consumer recycled) plastic into their recyclable tubes by 2022 in France and other European markets, which should significantly reduce the use of virgin plastic representing the planned transition towards a circular economy.
More broadly, the innovation contributes to Unilever’s commitment to ensure that 100% of its plastic packaging is designed to be reusable, recyclable or compostable, and its ambition to help collect and process more plastic packaging that it sells.