By Kara DiCamillo on January 25, 2013

A recent switch by Tom's of Maine to plastic toothpaste tubes brings concerns about recyclability, but the company has eco-friendly measures in place.

When I made the switch to Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, I can’t say that I was convinced. The natural flavor was not one that I was used to, but it was more important for me at the time to be able to recycle my toothpaste tube. Fast-forward to present day, and I do not even like the taste of other toothpastes anymore.

For many of us, the Tom’s of Maine brand has been known for its recyclable aluminum toothpaste tube since the 1970s. So, it came as a surprise to me the day that I opened up the cardboard box of a new tube and found it to be — gasp! — mainstream plastic.

Tom's toothpaste recycling

Tom's of Maine recently made the switch to plastic laminate toothpaste tubes.

Of course, my first thought was that Tom’s parent company, Colgate-Palmolive, was behind the transition, perhaps in search of a more cost-effective production option. However, it seems that a lot of research has gone into the switch, and the decision was actually influenced by consumers.

“Tom’s of Maine’s success over time has relied on our consumers’ faith in us,” Peter Bright, Marketing Director at Tom’s of Maine, says. “More than any product, more than any process, it’s their trust that we share the same core values as they do — that we care about their health and satisfaction, as well as the future of our communities and the living planet we share. So it’s important we keep on looking for new ways to improve how we serve them and how we do business in a sensitive and responsible way.”

According to the Tom’s of Maine website, more than one-quarter of consumer complaints about their toothpastes had to do with the packaging. I find this to be so interesting since the reason I made the switch was that very reason. However, I will admit that as I tried to squeeze all of the toothpaste out toward the end of the tube, it often cracked and leaked — this accounting for 68% of the complaints of the aluminum tubes.

With strict FDA regulations, Tom’s of Maine made the switch to plastic laminate tubes, but not without tons of research and in keeping with its Stewardship Model. As it turns out, producing the plastic tubes uses less energy than the aluminum ones, and they are lighter to ship. In fact, the company’s website states that the new tubes reduce the weight by nearly half. But, that doesn’t answer the question on recyclability. Thankfully, it is nice to hear that Tom’s of Maine is working on that.

The company has partnered with Illinois Tool Works, a company that recycles the tube materials and then uses them to make packaging products. If you want to recycle your Tom’s of Maine tubes, you can simply send the used ones to their facility in Maine, and then off to Illinois Tool Works they go through a process called “back-hauling” (using the trucks that would otherwise leave the facility empty).

But, that’s not all. Tom’s of Maine is also looking to get rid of the cardboard the tubes are sold in. The company is also hoping to introduce post-recycled plastic content, and has also funded research for the use of bioplastics.

Admittedly, the new plastic tubes are definitely easier to squeeze, but sending them to Maine is not necessarily convenient. However, I will add toothpaste tubes along with my other piles of nonrecyclable materials that I collect (Styrofoam, used frying pans and hard plastics) and will dutifully ship them off when I have a stash. I cannot help but wonder, will you do the same?

You can mail your used toothpaste tubes to:

Tom’s of Maine

302 Lafayette Center

Attn: Consumer Department

Kennebunk, ME 04043

Be sure to check out the Tom's of Maine TerraCycle Brigade as well!

About the author

In her Newport, RI, community, Kara is the organizer of Green Drinks Newport and a member of Newport's Energy & Environment Commission. Kara volunteers at Norman Bird Sanctuary, and has also volunteered as a panelist for Rhode Island Farmways, speaking to farmers from around the state about how they can better market and promote their businesses.

Beyond the moat that surrounds her island home, Kara has backpacked Mt. Washington in New Hampshire too many times to count, is a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, a graduate of the Colorado Outward Bound School and, in real life, she is a public relations director. Kara began her writing career with TreeHugger.com in January 2005 and is currently a contributing writer for TriplePundit, Ecorazzi, EcoSalon and her local Newport Patch.


Learn more about Kara DiCamillo

Comments

There are no comments for this post yet


Articles by Kara DiCamillo

Tewksbury’s Recycling Spirit Shines on Zero Waste Day

By Kara DiCamillo on November 24, 2014

The Massachusetts town brought together nearly 600 area residents to recycle their old belongings.

Sustainable Surfing: Look for Boards with Smaller Footprints

By Kara DiCamillo on September 23, 2014

The ECOBOARD Project ensures that dozens of manufacturers are able to produce eco-friendly surfboards.

Oregon Sign Recycling Saves Money and Improves Sustainability

By Kara DiCamillo on May 29, 2014

A pilot program in Oregon may have discovered an efficient, eco-friendly way to reuse the base materials in old highway signs.

Recycling Articles

How to Recycle Kitchen Cabinets

By Sophia Bennett on January 23, 2015

Nifty tips and resources for recycling and reusing your old kitchens cabinets.

How to Recycle Textiles

By Sophia Bennett on January 21, 2015

Textile recycling options abound no matter where you live.

The Pros and Cons of My Brown Goods Recycling Center

By April Stearns on January 15, 2015

All appliances eventually reach the end of their lives. What recycling options are available in your neighborhood?

Current News

Recycling Profile: Phoenix

By 1-800-RECYCLING on January 16, 2015

One of the country's largest curbside recycling programs is found in Phoenix, where the city is taking new measures to reach a 40% diversion rate goal.

Recycling Profile: Lethbridge, AB, Canada

By 1-800-RECYCLING on January 9, 2015

Booming Lethbridge, which could soon become the third-largest city in Alberta, relies on one local hauler for all curbside recycling collection.

Recycling Profile: Albany, NY

By 1-800-RECYCLING on January 2, 2015

Albany is home to one of New York State's most comprehensive curbside recycling programs.

Loading