By Mary Mazzoni on Sep 4, 2012

Recycling Mystery: Deodorant Tubes

We all use deodorant to avoid a stinky situation, but all those tubes can present a disposal dilemma. What exactly are deodorant tubes made from? Can I recycle them? And what local options do I have? Earth911 gets to the bottom of these questions and more in our latest recycling mystery.

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Photo: Alexandra Vietti/Earth911

Can I recycle my deodorant tubes?

Answer: Yes.

 

How are Deodorant Tubes Recycled?

So, why are deodorant tubes difficult to recycle in the first place? In almost all cases, the tubes themselves are made purely from plastic. The only trouble is that it can be difficult for consumers to determine what kind of plastic their tubes are made from, making it tough to tell if their local recycler accepts the material.

Most deoderant tubes are made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE or #2 plastic), low-density polyethylene (LDPE or #4 plastic) or polypropylene (PP or plastic #5), but materials may vary by brand. To make things even more complicated, many brands have a dial on the bottom of the tube that is made from a different plastic polymer than the rest of the container.

Why does it matter if tube components are made from different plastics? Tossing items that aren’t accepted by your local recycling program into the curbside bin, also known as recycling contamination, can cost cities big bucks and depreciate the quality of recycled feedstocks.

More Solved Mysteries: 10 Recycling Mysteries, Solved!

Product residue inside the tubes can also be problematic for recyclers, as too much extra gunk inside recovered packaging can also diminish the quality of recycled goods.

The recycling gurus at Terracyle, who accept all brands of deodorant tubes for recycling through the mail-in Tom’s of Maine Natural Care Brigade, have an interesting way of dealing with the challenges of deodorant tube recycling.

“They’re shredded,” Ernie Simpson, lead scientist for Terracycle, said of the company’s deodorant tube recycling process.

“So, the whole step is to take the material, shred it, wash it, melt it and then form new pellets from the original material,” he explained. “It’s the pellets that go into the fabrication of… new items and new applications.”

You Asked, Earth911 Answered: Is It Really Recyclable?

Before Terracycle begins accepting product packaging such as deodorant tubes for recycling, the company’s team of scientists thoroughly research packaging components and tailor recycling processes accordingly.

Unfortunately, most local recyclers don’t have the ability to customize recycling processes by product – making it difficult to recycle packaging that is made from multiple materials. So, if you plan to recycle your tubes through a curbside or drop-off program in your area, there are a few simple steps you should take first to avoid tossing the wrong materials into the bin.

NEXT: Can I Recycle Deodorant Tubes Locally?

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