03/2011 Update: This post is about Tom’s of Maine toothpaste in recyclable aluminum tubes. Recently, the company has announced they are switching to plastic laminate tubes, so the information in this article may be out of date very soon.
As you know, I switched from baking soda tooth powder back to toothpaste last summer when I found the former to be too abrasive for my teeth. At the time, I went with the SLS-Free Trader Joe’s brand and used as little as possible. The TJ’s tube, of course, is all plastic, and that tube ended up in my plastic tally last week.
Recently, I have made another switch, which has its pluses and minuses.
Tom’s of Maine SLS-Free toothpaste comes in a recyclable aluminum tube. Here are the recycling instructions, directly from the company’s web site:
In order to recycle our toothpaste tubes, you must first remove the plastic cap and the plastic threaded covering on the neck of the tube. The tubes can then be tossed in with your aluminum cans for recycling. In case you’re wondering, any toothpaste left in the tube and the food-grade plastic liner does not affect the tube’s recyclability. When the aluminum is processed, any residual toothpaste as well as the food-grade liner melts away without contaminating the recycled product.
If your town does not accept our tubes, please feel free to save up a bunch and send them to us at Tom’s of Maine, Consumer Dialogue Team, 302 Lafayette Center, Kennebunk, ME 04043. We would be happy to recycle them for you.
I plan to collect my tubes and mail them back to Tom’s of Maine to show support for their offer of Extended Producer Responsibility. I of course will also be adding the cap and threaded neck to my weekly plastic tally.
But what about that liner? After all my posts on BPA, I wondered, if the lining of metal cans contains BPA, why not the lining of metal toothpaste tubes? So I called Tom’s Customer Service number (800-367-8667) this morning and spoke with Patti.
Patti explained that while the manufacturer of the toothpaste tubes admits to a trace amount of BPA used in the linings of the tubes, Tom’s of Maine’s own testing has not found any. The machine used can detect amounts as small as 1 part per million. It is not sensitive enough to detect amounts smaller than 1ppm.
So, that’s the answer. Personally, I plan to continue buying Tom’s of Maine toothpaste because I appreciate that the tubes are recyclable and I want to support companies that take back their packaging. I’m not too worried about such a tiny amount of BPA since I’m avoiding the much larger sources. Your mileage may vary.
I am concerned about the collective effect of all these plastic linings that miraculously “melt away” during recycling and composting processes. Linings of not only toothpaste tubes but metal cans, paper cartons, jar lids, food boxes, etc.
When they melt away, where exactly is “away”?