Circular Case First Look

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Hi, my name is Fabio and for my Circular Case I’m going to re-design the toothpaste. I chose the toohpaste because it is a product we deal with everyday, multiple times a day, but we have never actually stopped thinking about it, we take it for granted. The toothpaste tube hasn’t changed in the last 50 years and so is its process model, which has been linear (production, consumption, waste) till today!


So these are my motivations, but before we start a deep analysis of this fast moving consumer good is needed.

Product Analysis

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Product Analysis

Tubes for toothpaste have a substantially cylindrical tubular body portion, one end of which is sealed by the conventional method of folding and crimping, and the other involving a relatively rigid shoulder portion of generally conical configuration, that terminates in a nozzle portion from which the contents of the tube may be dispensed. The cap serves as the closure for the nozzle as well as the support for the toothpaste tube when in vertical position.

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Four main parts: body, shoulder, nozzle, cap.


Dr. Lucius Sheffield, traveled to Paris and observed the same artists who had recently protested the creation of a useless and monstrous tower, diligently painting pictures of la Tour Eiffel to sell to useless and monstrous American tourists. It wasn’t the works of art, however, that he admired, but rather it was the tubes from which the artists squeezed their paint.



The only problem was that like the many similar products on the market by the late 19th century, the toothpaste came in jars. To use it, a person dipped his toothbrush into the jar to apply the paste. For a single person that worked pretty well, but if he happened to be a family the hygene level was poor.



Toothbrush with toothpaste


Interaction: Squeeze the bottom of the toothpaste tube to pour out the toothpaste.





Environment: The principal environment is the bathroom of the home, provisions are made in the form of medicine chests or cabinets within which such devices and other supplies are normally stored.




1780: People were known to scrub their teeth with a powder that was made up of mainly burnt bread.

1824: First toothpaste made by soap (later replaced by sodium lauryn sulfate to create a smooth paste)

1873: The first commercially produced toothpaste was launched by Colgate and sold in a jar.

1892: First collapsible toothpaste tube

1914: Fluoride is added to toothpastes after discovering it significantly decreased dental cavities.

1975: Herbal toothpastes, such as Tom’s Maine, become available as an alternative to cleaning teeth without fluoride.

1987: Edible toothpaste is invented. Was actually invented by NASA so astronauts could brush their teeth without spitting into a zero-gravity abyss.

1989: The first toothpaste that claimed to whiten and brighten your smile has been invented.


Circular Business Models

Toothpaste has not a Circular Model, it has a Linear Model!

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What is the problem?

The small size, blended material and leftover toothpaste inside toothpaste tubes – and other tube-based containers – make recycling almost impossible. As for toothbrushes, their slender shape and blend of plastic and nylon bristles make them tough to disassemble and recycle.Unrecyclable packaging doesn’t just end up in landfills — it can get swept into waterways, which contributes to the growing problem of plastic pollution of the world’s oceans and damages marine ecosystems. There is also emerging evidence that marine plastic canabsorb and spread toxins through the marine food web, and possibly to humans.


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Founded in 1806, Colgate-Palmolive is a $15.6 billion consumer products company that serves people around the world with well-known brands that make their lives healthier and more enjoyable. Colgate operates in over 75 countries and sells products in over 200 countries and territories. Approximately 75 percent of sales come from operations outside of the United States.

  • $15.6 Billion Worldwide sales 2010
  • $3 Million Savings from plastic packaging reduction in Latin America in 2010
  • 1st recyclable deodorant stick packaging developed by Tom’s of Maine


Goals: By 2020 achieve 100 percent recyclable portfolio of Home, Pet, and Personal Care packaging

  • Develop a fully recyclable toothpaste tube or other packaging in the fourth category, Oral Care;
  • Increase recycled content of packaging from 40 percent to 50 percent
  • Reduce or eliminate use of PVC in packaging.



Sustainable alternatives

Relative advantages: Natural products, no animal tested, environmentally conscious.

burts bee-1Burt’s Bees is an American personal care products that describes itself as an “Earth friendly, Natural Personal Care Company”making products for personal care, health, beauty, and personal hygiene. As of 2007, they manufactured over 197 products for facial and body skin care, lip care, hair care, baby care, men’s grooming, and outdoor remedies distributed in nearly 30,000 retail outlets including grocery stores and drug store chains across the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Hong Kong, and Taiwan from their headquarters in Durham, North Carolina.



Tom’s Maine Tom’s of Maine is a brandname and manufacturer of natural-ingredients-only personal care products, a partially owned subsidiary of Colgate-Palmolive since 2006 (Toms and Kate still have a minority ownership (16%) in Tom’s of Maine – Colgate Palmolive own 84% of the company). The company’s products are intentionally made without ingredients that are: chemically derived, have a negative environmental impact, or are tested on animals.



Type of toothpastes packaging

  • Aluminium

Pros: Recyclable

Cons: Cracks and splits cause the product to leak

  • Plastic (PET, HDPE)

Pro: Recyclable

Cons: None compared to aluminium and plastic laminate

  • Plastic laminate (Laminate tubes are made of aluminium foil surrounded by layers of acrylic resin and polypropylene PPE on both sides)

Pro: Cheap

Cons: Difficult to recycle


Packaging Comparison

They examined the choice of aluminium toothpaste containers over the laminate tubes. In order to answer this question life cycle analysis (LCA) were done on both laminate and aluminium tubes, with two versions of the aluminium tube modeled (100% virgin aluminium and 50% recycled)

Life cycle energy takes into account: greenhouse gas emission, acidification potential, carcinogen production, eutrophication, solid waste, air and water pollution.

  • Laminate tube best environmental performance (37% less life cycle energy compared to aluminium tubes
  • 50% recycled aluminium
  • 100% virgin aluminium tubes poorest environmental performances due to row material extraction and production

From a life-cycle cost perspective the aluminium and the laminate tubes options are equivalent

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*University of Michingan’s Centre for sustainable system


Type of toothpastes content

  • Not-edible: Not edible toothpaste are the most commercialised and are those whose content of fluoride is too high to be ingest (FDA regulation)
  • Edible: (1987: Edible toothpaste is invented. Was actually invented by NASA so astronauts could brush their teeth without spitting into a zero-gravity abyss). Toothpaste is not intended to be swallowed due to the fluoride content. Edible alternatives have a lower percentage of fluoride or are fluoride free. Edible toothpastes are generally designed for kids that are likely to accidentally ingest it. On the market we can also find edible toothpastes designed for pets.


FDA regulation

The design of the packaging is directly related to whether there is a concentration of fluoride in the toothpaste or not.

“FDA has decided that all toothpastes or other dentifrices which contain fluoride will indeed be regulated as drugs, regardless of whether or not any drug claims have been made. The Agency reasons that fluoride is widely accepted as an anti-cavity agent by the dental products industry and consumers, and because fluoride a ects the structure of the tooth. According to the nal monograph, such products may not contain more than 276 milligrams of total fluorine per package. This requirement is what keeps toothpaste tubes at their relatively small size. Additionally, the FDA also thought it important to avoid exposure of water and other moisture to certain toothpastes. Thus, all fluoride powdered toothpastes must be packaged in a tight container. This is defined in the section as a container that protects the contents from contamination by extraneous liquids, solids, or vapors, from loss of the article, and from, deliquescence, or evaporation under ordinary conditions of handling, shipment, storage, and distribution. Such a container must also be capable of tight closure.”



  1. Packaging: Packaging made of plastic are cheap, they use less life cycle energy compared to other materials and don’t leak.
  2. Toothpaste texture: Gel toothpaste is preferred compared to powder because is less abrasive and has a smoother and more pleasurable texture.
  3. Values: Efficiency, Pleasurable texture, Hygiene



What can be improved?

1 New Circular Business Model
The Hybrid model: The toothpaste tube as container that can be refilled with toothpaste bought separately.

2 Use of recyclable or biodegradable materials
– Edible Toothpaste packaging: Ohoo!
Toothpaste tube packaging: Recyclable plastic, used as dispenser
– Not edible Toothpaste packaging: biodegradable plastic
Toothpaste tube packaging: Recyclable plastic (HDPE). Soft enough to be collapsable but not too soft to loose balance when in vertical position.