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Toothpaste Tubes Are a Hot Mess—Here's the Eco

Apr 03, 2024

We are all in for these convenient, plastic-free toothpaste tablets.

Free the Ocean

When thinking about reducing plastic waste, the first things that come to mind are probably single-use items like water bottles or shopping bags. Packaging for products like shampoo and toothpaste may barely register on the plastic-awareness radar—but it should! These are items that most people use regularly for their entire lives, and it all really adds up.

So let's talk toothpaste.

Most of the world's toothpaste tubes are made from a mix of materials, making them hard, if not impossible, to recycle. According to Colgate-Pamolive (which has nearly 40% of the global market share for toothpaste; they know a thing or two about the product), 20 billion toothpaste tubes a year are tossed in the trash.

Since one billion is hard to conceive of (let alone 20 billion), we like this example from the American Museum of Natural History: One billion oranges would fill a sports stadium to the brim. Given that mental picture, one can imagine how much landfill space ends up dedicated to toothpaste tubes alone.

Meanwhile, toothpaste tubes take 500 years to decompose. So we have, say, roughly 20 stadiums filled to the brim with toothpaste tubes annually, year after year—and those toothpaste tubes aren't going anywhere for centuries.

It's a staggering thing to consider—and the reason why Treehugger editors are smitten with toothpaste tablets. There are a number of different manufacturers, but today, we want to talk about the ones made by Huppy and available at our favorite plastic-free shop, Free the Ocean. (Note that the purchase of every product from Free the Ocean funds the removal of plastic from the ocean and coastlines.)

The tablets come in a cute, refillable, and recyclable tin. They are vegan and cruelty-free. And, importantly, they work. They are scientifically formulated with ingredients to naturally whiten teeth, freshen breath, remineralize enamel, and reduce sensitivity.

As noted by Huppy, "We promise Huppy products will never contain any plastics and will always be 100% vegan and cruelty-free. Our toothpaste & mouthwash tablets contain clean ingredients including; N-HA to keep teeth safe from decay, xylitol to ward off unwelcome bacteria and coconut oil to keep gums happy and healthy."


They are easy to use: Chew up a tablet, wet your toothbrush, and get brushing. And aside from their sustainability bona fides, they are a great option for travel since they are compact, lightweight, and good for carry-on luggage.

Mimi Ausland, co-founder of Free the Ocean, echos our enthusiasm. “This is one of the first products I mention when people ask about the kinds of sustainable swaps Free the Ocean offers," she says. "Everyone is always surprised and happy to hear there’s an alternative to plastic toothpaste tubes (which are hardly ever recycled). Not only is it a unique, earth-friendly product, I’ve found the tabs clean my teeth better than any traditional toothpaste.”

Some sustainable swaps are easier than others—switching to toothpaste tablets ranks high amongst the easiest. Talk about a small act with a big impact!

Visit Free the Ocean to purchase the Huppy Toothpaste Tablets and Refills. For every item purchased, 10 pieces of plastic will be removed from the ocean ... and one less toothpaste tube will be added to a landfill to linger for 500 years.

In support of Free the Ocean's mission to clean up the ocean and reduce plastic use, we feature a product from their plastic-free shop each month. (Note: We do not earn any commissions from these recommendations.)

Colgate-Palmolive: Colgate Launches its Groundbreaking Recyclable Toothpaste Tube with "Recycle Me" Packaging in the U.S., March 17, 2022

300 million toothpaste tubes go to landfill. Br Dent J 230, 390 (2021).