The complaint argues that marketing the tubes as recyclable is false and misleading. | George W. Bailey/Shutterstock

A lawsuit over Colgate-Palmolive marketing its Tom’s of Maine and Colgate brand toothpaste tubes as recyclable is moving forward. 

Filed by three consumers in August 2023, the complaint argues that marketing the tubes as recyclable is “false and misleading” because only a “miniscule” number of recycling facilities actually accept them for recycling. It also alleges the recyclability marketing is in violation of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Green Guides, which regulate how environmental claims can be made about products.

A California judge denied Colgate-Palmolive’s request to dismiss the lawsuit last week. 

The three named plaintiffs allege that they purchased the products because “they believed Colgate’s claims that they were recyclable and understood that this meant they would be able recycle the tubes through their curbside recycling program,” the court document notes. 

Had the plaintiffs known the tubes weren’t accepted in their municipal programs, nor in a majority of municipal programs in California and around the country, they wouldn’t have purchased the products, their complaint alleged.

Colgate filed to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the term “recyclable tube” is an “accurate representation of the intrinsic character of the products” and that tubes do meet the requirements of the Green Guides “because the tubes are compatible with the HDPE #2 recycling stream, which is widely available to the vast majority of consumers across California and nationwide.” 

In addition, Colgate added a note on the packaging to check locally before recycling, it stated. The company argued it “provides transparent information regarding the market transition to recyclable tubes and advises consumers to check their localities to confirm acceptance of toothpaste tubes during the transition period.”

In a Feb. 6 order, Judge Joseph Sphero denied the request to dismiss the lawsuit. Among other points, he noted the recyclability claims could potentially be legally misleading even with Colgate’s on-packaging disclaimers. Sphero also noted the plaintiffs “adequately alleged that Colgate’s recyclable claims are misleading under the standards set forth in the Green Guides.”

Colgate is facing similar legal challenges with the FTC and regulators in California and Connecticut from advertisement watchdog group Truth in Advertising, which first filed in 2023 and claimed that marketed the tubes as recyclable violates the Green Guides. The tubes were introduced in 2019. 

A version of this story appeared in Plastics Recycling Update on Feb. 14.

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