The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
February 3, 2009

BPA in your toothpaste & Recycling the tubes.

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the company has announced they are switching to plastic laminate tubes, so the information in this article may be out of date very soon.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”?

22 Responses to “BPA in your toothpaste & Recycling the tubes.”

  1. Sada Nam says:

    Spirit Bear Tooth Powder is an all natural alternative to toothpaste & comes in recyclable glass jars.

  2. Digger says:

    You and Tom’s of Maine need to do your research on BPA. A “parts per million” test is pretty much useless for testing BPA, as the evidence shows bad effects in the parts per trillion level.

    • Beth Terry says:

      Hi Digger. I was in fact wary of their findings. But I’m wondering how BPA in lining of metal tube compares to completely plastic tube. We don’t know what chemicals could be in the plastic tube because the manufacturers are not required to disclose.

  3. Fake Plastic Fish says:

    Hi Raychelle. Thank you so much for this information! You're right. I don't understand ASL, but my niece does. I'll try to get her to translate for me. (She just graduated from high school and will be attending Gallaudet in the fall in the Interpretation program.)

    From the comments, it sounds like Karen Schettle talks about more than just tooth brushing. I'm wondering if she would consider posting a transcript so that both hearing and non-hearing viewers can benefit from the information. When I first started posting my own videos online, it didn't occur to me that deaf readers of Fake Plastic Fish would not be able to understand them. Now, I post a transcript whenever I make a new video.

    I realize that Ecodeaf is a site for deaf people, but since the video is up on Youtube for the whole world, it would be great to have a written transcript. Especially since the info is so important!

  4. raychelle says:


    i love your blog. thanks for the recycling tip re: tom's of maine tube.

    i decided to stop brushing my teeth with paste and simply brush my teeth with water, according to my dental hygienist's recommendation. she's been brushing her teeth forever with water, and she gives the same advice to all her other clients. she says it's the flossing that really keeps teeth healthy, not brushing because we often brush our teeth the wrong way anyway (back and forth across teeth which damages gums… instead of in circles, press upper gums downwards and lower gums upwards).

    so, brushing my teeth with simply water helps cut down on the amount of things we buy (toothpaste) and throw away (empty toothpaste tubes). and on those days we feel some psychological need to "deep clean" we can always go back to good ol baking soda. they're okay, when used occasionally, not everyday because they're very abrasive.

    here's the link to a video by my dental hygienist, but it is in a different language, a language you might not understand, that's why i wrote a short summary above. also, my dental hygienist suggested that i bring tom's of maine to my dental appointments so she can use it instead of the fluoride/chemically infested paste they put on your teeth.


  5. Pavlina says:

    I think I can help here. The melting temperature of Aluminum is 660 degrees celsius. This is much hotter than most fires. BPA is an organic molecules, and I use the term in it’s correct form meaning comprised of Carbon, Hydrogen, and oxygen, BPA contains exclusively these elements in the following amounts: C15H16O2. The melting point of BPA is ~159 degrees celsius, the boiling point is ~220 degrees celsius. At the melting point of Al which is 660 degrees celsius, BPA is no longer BPA. It will thermally decompose (specifically it is pyrolysis) and form mainly Carbon (soot), a bit of water (vapor) and carbon dioxide (gas). There is no way possible that molten BPA will float to the surface of molten Al, then solidify when it is cooled. It is a physical impossibility.

  6. beyesn says:

    I applaud your ability to tolerate the miniscule ppt amount of BPA that is in the aluminum tube liner. The “dose is the poison” is something to remember when dealing with substances that do a lot of good in small doses. The primary function of the internal coating in cans (and your tube) is safety — to avoid food poisoning. Without the coating, we would return to a bygone era when Escherichia coli and botulism poisoning was rampant.

    I have a good crockpot chili recipe if you’re intered.

  7. Robj98168 says:

    Besides craigslist you can find used crock pot cookers at thrift stores, rumage sales, moving sales always for reasonable prices or do like my aunt and uncle- hold a party and ask your mephew rob to bring cocktail weenies knowing he will bring them in his mini- crock pot and keep the crockpot- my uncle~ the Crackpot!

  8. Is it Easy Being Green says:

    Thanks so much for the info on recycling Tom’s toothpaste tubes. I’ve been using Tom’s for years and didn’t realize I could recycle them.

  9. RecycleBill says:

    I don’t mean to be critical and I want to commend you on your efforts but as someone who earns his living in the recycling industry I’m always suspicious of these so called, “mail in recycling” programs.

    I don’t know about this program in particular but when you consider packaging, transportation, fuel and other environmental costs many of these mail-in programs are an environmental net loss.

    Hopefully enough people will pick up the torches and make recycling local so these products won’t be so wasteful.

    On option that would help in a big way would be for consumers to start demanding standardization of packaging across different brands instead of allowing marketers to design and spec packaging in ways that are deliberately different from their competitors. Such a move would lead to more reuse and easier recycling.

    PS. I’m adding Fake Plastic Fish to my blogroll so I can find you again.

  10. The Green Cat says:


    Glad you were feeling well enough to post and hoping you are back on your feet soon! Thanks for the info on Tom’s. I’m still happy with baking soda but I’m glad to have this info to pass on to others. Thanks also for investigating the BPA issue with them–glad to know they had a ready answer to that.

    As far as “away”, well we all know the answer to that–there is no “away”. But I guess a plastic lining is still better than an entire plastic tube.

  11. monkeyjen says:

    HI Beth – When are we having din din? Hope you’re feeling better.

    I wanted to mention something unrelated to the toothpaste… I’, sure I know how you feel about all manner of disposable products – and I’m with you – though I admit to using those paperboard plates for a birthday party (which I composted). I don’t know why but this thing in particular has really got my goat – packages of disposable insulated coffee cups with plastic lids from Dixie. I saw them in Walgreens a couple mos ago and then I saw a commercial during the Super Bowl – I guess if I buy them I’ll look like all the cool kids who go to Starbucks.
    Like I said, this product in particular is just so vile. I wrote to Dixie, calling them irresponsible, etc. I did this today after I walked into my boss’ office and saw a package of them on her cabinet!! Lemmings!! Anyway, has anyone else noticed these things and been equally aggro/hostile/flummoxed?

  12. Usage Unit says:

    AFAIK, “melts away” means that when they melt down the aluminum, it, and any other impurities, float to the top and get skimmed off. I would assume the skimmed scum is then landfilled after cooling, although it may also end up in a holding pond or something. (Properly lined, so as to avoid groundwater seepage of course…)

  13. Anonymous says:

    dear beth,
    very glad to see you posting again! i’m so sorry if i alarmed you about the gbs. it’s a rather unknown illness and your description hit all the memory buttons for me! the tingling and weakness are common flu/fever issues but the numbness kinda worried me. get some much needed rest. keep one of those adorable kitties in your lap so you’ll be pinned down…making the world better can wait a few days til YOU’RE better!

  14. Green Bean says:

    I remember you talking about this toothpaste but never actually got around to buying it. I do like that they take back their products. How do we know there is not BPA in all of the other non-recyclable toothpaste containers? Shoot. It seems to be everywhere. I guess that’s where “away” is – everywhere.

  15. Clif says:

    I don’t know about the plastic in toothpaste tubes but with mint melt-aways it goes into my tummy. MMMMMMM.

  16. suzanne says:

    Glad you are feeling better. We recently switched to Tom’s for our children, and I was excited to see the aluminum tube. I am not sure how this will hold up to all the man handling, but a cracked and oozing aluminum tube could not possibly be more disgusting than the spooged up and crusty plastic tubes of crest.

    Tom’s makes killer dental floss too, but it comes in plastic…

  17. Robj98168 says:

    WTF? I catch hell about BPA in my can of tomato paste and you get to use BPA toothpaste??? Just teasing!

  18. Jessica at Bwlchyrhyd says:

    I must have missed the post last summer, but I want to know more about baking soda being too abrasive to your teeth. I’ve been using a mixture of baking soda and salt since sometime last summer (can’t really remember exactly when I started — when the last tube of toothpaste ran out most likely) and I’ve had no problems. I saw my dentist a few months ago and didn’t tell him what I was doing and he said my teeth looked fine…

  19. Farmer's Daughter says:

    There is no “away.” My best guess would be that it’s in the atmosphere. BPA (and others) in the air, then contaminating the water and soil? That’s a scary thought.

    And thanks for the info on the Tom’s recycling program!

  20. Fake Plastic Fish says:

    I started to feel better — well enough to write this blog post and call Tom’s of Maine. And then right afterwards, I stood up and got dizzy and had to sit back down again. Am taking another day off from work. No more fever. Tingling seems to be subsiding. I don’t think it’s Guillain-Barre. Drinking a lot of water. Thanks for asking!

  21. Anonymous says:

    I’ll get to the BPA later. What I want to know is how the heck are you? Are you still tingling and numb? Did you write that blog while sweating with a fever of 105? Should you have been in bed, covered with cats?
    This is from Axelle.