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Do not place toothpaste tubes in your recycling cart.

At the curb, they belong in the trash cart.  The Streets Division drop-off sites do not have a recycling program for toothpaste tubes, either.

Artisan Dental does offer a dental supplies drop-off recycling program at their office. Tubes may be acceptable for their TerraCycle drop-off program.


WHY ARE THEY GARBAGE? it says right there on the package it can be recycled.

There are a couple prominent brands that state on the tubes it can be recycled.

While that may be true in other places around the country, it is not true here in Madison yet.

The facility that sorts and sells the recyclables collected by the Streets Division does not want to accept these materials yet.

The tubes and caps of these brands are made from a plastic that could be recycled, but there are problems.  If you think of an empty toothpaste tube, they are usually squeezed flat, which means in a sorting facility they will act more like cardboard than a plastic bottle and that means these tubes are more likely to wind up in the cardboard than with correct plastic containers.  Also, they very likely have plenty of residual toothpaste left inside.

The labeling on these tubes is too broad. It would be better for the tubes to ask consumers to check locally to see if it can be recycled instead of the blanket advice printed there now.

how can they say it is recyclable when i can't recycle it?

Recycling isn't the same throughout the country.  Rules and laws vary.  Where the material goes varies, too. And their processing ability and specifications for material they process will vary.

The tubes are likely recyclable in other communities. But for right now, we can't do it here.

This is a good example about how materials and packaging change faster than the recovery industry can adapt - or faster than this decentralized recycling system can fully adapt nationwide to new products and new packaging designs.


will this ever change? i'd really like to recycle my toothpaste tubes.

It is possible in time.  And if that change occurs, we will announce it and happily update this page.

But for right now - no, do not put toothpaste tubes in your recycling cart.

It will all depend on market demand for the materials, a tolerance of the recyclers for dealing with residual toothpaste, and the sorting technology to capture these flat plastic things.

In the meantime, if you would like to recycle your tubes there is the drop-off program at Artisan Dental. You may also wish to speak to your dentist to also offer this kind of drop-off program.