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

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.

Earth Day 2014 Events Take Over Boston in April and May

By Kara DiCamillo on April 14, 2014

Boston is alive with Earth Day events in April and May.

Recycling Articles

How to Recycle Swimming Pool Chemicals

By Sophia Bennett on October 29, 2014

Toxic and combustive pool chemicals need to be handled and disposed of with the utmost care.

How to Recycle Jars

By Sophia Bennett on October 22, 2014

Glass can be recycled over and over again, and virtually every city and town has access to recycling options.

Blog Action Day: Striving for Recycling Education Equality in California

By April Stearns on October 16, 2014

California suffers from recycling education inequality. Change across the state could help shape a new generation of recycling champions.

Current News

1800Recycling.com Profiles Recycling Efforts in Austin, St. Petersburg, Knoxville, Champaign, Cambridge, and Other North American Cities

By 1-800-RECYCLING on October 30, 2014

“Recycling laws, policies and practices can vary substantially from city to city”

Recycling Profile: Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

By 1-800-RECYCLING on October 24, 2014

One of Canada's most strikingly beautiful cities has a robust sustainability plan in place over the next five-plus years.

Recycling Profile: Las Cruces, NM

By 1-800-RECYCLING on October 17, 2014

New Mexico's second-largest city collects recyclables at the curb twice a month.

Loading