Colgate-Palmolive plans to launch a modified, cheaper version of its recyclable toothpaste tube this year that uses less plastic and is easier to ship, the firm's chief sustainability officer Ann Tracy has told Reuters.
The New York-based company has been converting the roughly nine billion toothpaste tubes it sells annually to a commonly recyclable plastic that helps reduce waste but is more expensive to manufacture.
It has now made a breakthrough – a cheaper version, which uses 16% less plastic, is 16% lighter, and company tests have shown to be easier to dispense from.
The company found consumers did not want to pay more, so had absorbed the higher cost of the previous recycled model rather than passing it on, Tracy said separately during a panel at the Reuters Responsible Business USA conference.
Tracy told Reuters in an interview that lots of different studies had been conducted looking at whether consumers would pay more for something considered "green".
"You have to look at our products. Maybe they will for a car, but for a tube of toothpaste maybe they won't," she said.
Nevertheless, Colgate, like many manufacturers of household goods, has broadly hiked prices on its toothpastes, dish soaps and pet foods over the past year-and-a-half to offset skyrocketing commodity and labor costs.
Recycled Toothpaste Tubes
In North America, about 77% of Colgate's toothpaste units are now sold in a recycled tube, Tracy said, a figure she expects to rise to 95% by the end of 2023. Globally 43% of toothpaste tubes were recyclable by the end of 2022, she added.
Colgate faces the challenge of making sure consumers recycle the household basic and that facilities properly process the tube.
"We're at this chicken-and-egg place where the material recycling facilities are concerned they'll have contamination because not all the tubes are converted yet," Tracy said. "So our goal is to help share the technology to help it get there as quickly as possible."
Modern recycling plants with automation can process the tube more easily, she said.
"We understand the challenge, but if we didn't develop the tube, we would never get there," she said.