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Can toothpaste tubes be recycled across the US? It’s getting closer – Orange County Register

Can toothpaste tubes be recycled across the US? It’s getting closer – Orange County Register

Daniela Sirtori-Cortina | (TNS) Bloomberg News

In the United States, toothpaste tubes and other squeezable plastic containers are becoming more durable. About 90% of toothpaste tubes on the market are now manufactured in a way that makes them compatible for recycling with HDPE, the same plastic used for products like shampoo bottles. , according to research firm Stina Inc.

Overall, 75% of all plastic squeeze tubes in the United States – also used for personal care products such as conditioner and lotions – now have the correct design. This technical step makes it more likely that recycled tubes will be recovered by American consumers.

It’s rarely a sure thing. In the country’s fragmented system, companies making recyclable products often have to persuade local governments and private companies to accept the items, sort them and turn them into something new. In 2022, Bloomberg Green reported that many sorting centers were not accepting toothpaste tubes, in part because the traditional and recyclable versions were too similar. The old version could cause contamination, so it was easier to reject toothpaste tubes generally.

Colgate, which was among the leaders in developing a recyclable tube made from plastic rather than harder-to-recover materials, shared its design with competitors starting around 2018. In 2020, the Association of Plastic Recyclers published guidelines to help companies design tubing that is compatible with HDPE flow.

Since then, companies representing 90% of the U.S. toothpaste market have made the switch — ahead of their commitment to do so by 2025, according to Stina, which runs a tube recyclability project funded in part by Colgate. Colgate declined to comment.

Stacey Luddy, director of Stina, calls the design change a “critical milestone.” The organization works with companies that process plastics into raw materials for new products, as well as those that sort plastics, to confirm that they accept the tubes. If they do, municipalities will be more likely to collect them. Consumers should always check to see if their local recycling programs accept the tubes, Luddy says.

There is still a way to go. In the United States, only 27% of HDPE bottles are collected for recycling, according to 2022 figures compiled by the Association of Plastic Recyclers. But making toothpaste tubes compatible with an existing recycling stream is an important step.

“HDPE bottle recyclers – those who turn recyclable bottles into materials that can be used in new products – need more milk jugs, detergents and other HDPE bottles put in your recycling bins, so that they have the supply they need to meet current demand,” Luddy says.

Sander Defruyt, head of the plastics initiative at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, says he appreciates Colgate’s efforts to develop a recyclable toothpaste tube and share its design with competitors. But it also highlights the uphill battle for overall recycling infrastructure in the United States, including collection, sorting and recovery.

“This shows that making recycling a success takes a huge effort and all these elements need to be in place,” says Defruyt. “We need to put much greater effort into other solutions, such as large-scale reuse. »


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