Colgate is always looking for ways to minimize the impact of its packaging on the environment, and has been an industry leader in the continuous use of a type of post-consumer recycled plastic known as PET. In the U.S., we have been using this material in home care bottles since 1991. Beginning in 1998, we were the first in our industry to use post-consumer recycled PET in Europe.
Our global sustainability packaging strategy is focused on the following 4 Rs:
- Reduce the weight of the packaging where feasible
- Remove secondary and tertiary packaging where possible
- Recycle - increase the use of recycled materials and convert to more recycling-friendly materials
- Reuse/Refill - design packages to be reusable and focus on refill package development
Guidelines have been developed to help our packaging designers and engineers create more sustainable packaging starting from the concept stage. Our packaging teams publish monthly internal Packaging Sustainability Newsletters to share best practices, news and market trends from around the world.
More Recycled Content and Less Packaging
We continue to increase the recycled content of many of our packages. For example, in 2008 and 2009:
- Colgate Europe increased the use of post-consumer recycled PET to 60% in its Home Care and Personal Care bottles
- In Brazil, Colgate used up to 100% post-consumer recycled PET in its cleaning product bottles
- Colgate North America used from 25% to 75% post-consumer recycled PET in its Palmolive®, Softsoap® and Ajax® bottles
The Flexible Packaging Association awarded Colgate-Palmolive's new Softsoap® hand soap pouch refill a Silver Award for its environmental benefits, including reduced emissions, waste and energy consumption resulting from a manufacturing process that uses half the nonrenewable energy and reduces carbon dioxide emissions compared to a like-sized PET bottle. Additionally, the materials used to produce the pouch weigh 50% less than PET bottles.
In a study of products sold at a UK retailer, Colgate products had the lowest packaging weight to product weight ratio for toothpaste tubes, liquid hand soap and underarm deodorant.
Colgate continues to be a leader in introducing concentrated products, which require less packaging, less water and less transportation energy. For example:
- In Europe, LaCroix®, a bleach concentrate, and Soupline®, a fabric softener concentrate, are sold in pouches, a type of package that uses less plastic than a traditional bottle
- In the U.S., Palmolive® Ultra dish liquid is concentrated for consumers to use one-third less liquid
- In Canada, Colgate introduced Fleecy® 2X fabric softener in 2008. It is concentrated so the consumer will only need half as much liquid. The package uses 38% less material than the non-concentrated version and it contains 25% post-consumer recycled plastic
Our Sustainable Packaging Strategy In Action
Reducing Material in Toothpaste Tubes
Colgate continues its effort to reduce the amount of material in its toothpaste tubes while maintaining the required dispensing performance, toothpaste quality and packaging integrity. From 2000 to 2008, the packaging reductions resulted in over 30% reduction in consumption of energy and natural resources. Colgate's progress in this area was recognized as a "Sustainability Success Story" by a major retail customer. For example, in Latin America:
- The tube weight reduction resulted in 1,150 metric tons of savings in 2006 and 2007
- The cap weights were reduced in 2008, resulting in an annual savings of 400 metric tons of plastic
Improving Environmental Profile of Pinho Sol® Cleaner Packaging
In Brazil, a recent project focused on our concentrated Pinho Sol® cleaner, where one 500ml bottle can provide up to 16 liters of product to the consumer. We increased the use of post-consumer recycled PET in the bottles to 100%, reduced the bottle weight by over 20% and increased the use of recycled material in the shipping case. Consumer education programs are planned to help consumers learn how to save water and recycle the Pinho Sol® cleaner bottles.
Other Examples of Packaging Improvements
- In Latin America, changes in Home Care bottles are saving 2,200 metric tons of plastic each year
- In Europe,
- Dish liquid bottles such as Paic® use 12% less plastic, saving 48 metric tons annually
- Soupline® fabric softener bottles are made from 60% consumer-recycled PET plastic and use less plastic than a major competitor
- Toilet bowl cleaner bottles such as LaCroix® use less plastic, saving 35 metric tons each year
- In North America, the Softsoap® bottle weight was reduced by 9% resulting in a plastic savings of 177 metric tons per year
- In Thailand, six projects to reduce corrugated board weight saved 505 metric tons of paper in 2008
Colgate's Hill's pet food business has made great strides in using innovative packaging for wet products. Hill's introduced certain Prescription Diet® wet pet food products in laminate pouches, giving pet owners in Europe and Japan an alternative to metal cans. In 2008, this meant a savings of 78.2 metric tons of packaging material, resulting in lighter shipping weight of Hill's pet food and lower transport volume of incoming packages to the manufacturing site. In addition, because of different shipping requirements for pouched pet food packets, Hill's is able to ship over 50% more pouched pet food per square foot than when using cans.
At Colgate, sustainability is a critical criterion for any new package design and development. Through our core value of continuous improvement, we constantly search for ways to minimize the environmental impact of product packaging.