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Brushing up on Toothpaste Packaging Innovations

Take Five video: To reduce the number of toothpaste tubes ending up in landfills each year, both multinationals and startups in the oral care industry are engineering new packaging that is not only recyclable, but in many cases, eye-catching as well.

Quick hits:

  • The global oral health care market was worth $31.7 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 5.9% from 2021 to 2028.
  • Because they are a lamination of plastic and aluminum, traditional toothpaste tubes cannot be cost-effectively recycled. Therefore, it’s estimated that 400 million toothpaste tubes in the U.S. and 1.5 billion tubes globally are discarded in landfills every year.
  • Colgate-Palmolive was the first to launch a recyclable, monomaterial toothpaste tube made from HDPE for its Tom’s of Maine brand. Another innovation from the company is a clear PET tube with a slippery new coating technology inside.
  • Startups, including Spotlight Oral Care, Moon Oral Care, and NOICE Care, have debuted attractive, innovative new toothpaste packaging options, including a completely recyclable PP tube with PP in-mold label, a recyclable, sugarcane-based bioplastic tube, and an amber glass bottle, respectively. 

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Hello, this is Anne Marie Mohan, Senior Editor of Packaging World magazine, with Take Five.

The global oral care industry is a massive one, and it continues to grow due to consumers’ increasing awareness of the benefits of good oral hygiene. According to a recent report, the global oral care market was worth $31.7 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 5.9% from 2021 to 2028.

So what’s the environmental impact of all the packaging used for these products? It’s estimated that 400 million toothpaste tubes in the U.S. and 1.5 billion tubes globally are discarded in landfills every year. That’s because traditionally, toothpaste tubes have been made from a lamination of plastic and aluminum. The aluminum gives the package its flexibility as well as protects the flavor and fluoride in the formulation, but it makes the tube impossible to recycle cost-effectively.

In response, a number of CPG brands have begun introducing new toothpaste packaging that uses more readily-recyclable materials.

Colgate-Palmolive, has launched several impressive toothpaste-tube alternatives. The first is for its Tom’s of Maine brand, which in 2019 adopted a recyclable monomaterial tube. The Colgate technology represents the first oral care or personal care tube to earn recognition for recyclability from The Association of Plastic Recyclers.

Colgate accomplished this by switching from a mix of linear low-density polyethylene and HDPE to mostly HDPE. And then, on the shoulder of the tube, it switched from a much higher melt index to a lower one so the tube would be compatible with the HDPE recycle stream.

Since the Tom’s of Maine launch, Colgate’s Smile for Good toothpaste brand in Europe and Natural Extracts brand in Latin America have also been converted to the new tube. By year’s end, Colgate Optic White in sizes above 3 oz will also take advantage of this technology. The goal is to have all of the company’s toothpaste in this recyclable tube by 2025.

In April, Colgate-Palmolive unveiled its Colgate Elixir brand in Europe, a product it describes as “toothpaste reimagined.” The petite 2.7-oz inverted container in a sleek, sophisticated design is made from a clear PET with a clear overcap. The use of PET is made possible through a breakthrough coating technology from LiquiGlide. The coating eliminates the friction between the inside of the package and the product, allowing the toothpaste to flow freely from the container and evacuating product completely. According to LiquiGlide CEO Dave Smith, the reason toothpaste hasn’t been packaged in PET before is because it sticks and won’t come out easily. The LiquiGlide coating enables PET squeeze bottles to work for standard toothpaste. 

A number of startups, offering more natural formulations and custom varieties, have also launched toothpaste packaging using new materials. 

Among them is Spotlight Oral Care, an international oral beauty-care startup that offers clean, sustainable products targeted for specific conditions such as whitening, gum health, or cavities.

For its toothpaste tube, it uses a carbon-negative, recyclable polyethylene bioplastic made from a byproduct of sugarcane. The company calls the material green PE, but it’s not clear if this is Braskem’s branded Green PE resin.

Another startup, California-based Moon Oral Care, which offers a prestige line of oral care products, has introduced its new Activated Charcoal Whitening Anti-cavity Toothpaste in Lunar Peppermint in a recyclable, injection-molded black polypropylene tube. The chic tube uses a PP in-mold label with an EVOH barrier that is printed in black with white accents and a cold-foil feature area. The cap is a matte-black PP flip-top closure, oriented with artwork.

And lastly is a startup that has departed completely from the toothpaste-tube format. Founded in 2019 in Singapore, e-commerce company NOICE Care offers an all-natural, zero-waste, anti-plaque charcoal toothpaste in a recyclable, amber glass bottle. The black gel product is dispensed from the bottle by way of a reusable plastic pump.

Says the company, while they looked at other packaging materials, such as recycled and recyclable plastic and paper-based packaging, they chose glass because of its higher recycling rate. And, they said, if it’s not recycled, at the end of its life, it goes back to being sand.

Another benefit of the material, they add, is its robustness, which makes it suitable for reuse models. NOICE joined the Loop circular shopping platform in the U.K. in July 2020.

Besides its availability on Loop, NOICE gel toothpaste is available as a one-time order or on a subscription basis through the company’s website. First-time subscribers receive one pump bottle of the toothpaste and two screw-cap bottles. With subsequent orders, they receive three screw-cap bottles. NOICE is available in the U.S. and in the U.K.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of Take 5. 

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