- Common chemical ingredients
- Readily biodegradable sweeteners
- RSPO certified (or equivalent) palm oil derivatives
- Tube not easily recyclable
- Some ingredients are harmful to aquatic life
- Contains titanium dioxide
Tom’s of Maine is a natural personal care product brand. It was established in the 1970s with the aim of helping others live a more natural life. The brand has been owned by Colgate-Palmolive since 2006.
The major ingredients in their Simply White Toothpaste are chemically simple and common. This is positive because it means that the chemicals are more likely to be similar to those that are naturally present in the receiving environment, minimising ecosystem disruption. They have minimal aquatic toxicity concerns and the chemicals that can be degraded are readily biodegradable.
Some of these ingredients may be derived from palm oil. However, Tom’s of Maine is committed to only using palm oil derivatives that are certified by the RSPO or equivalent standard. Palm oil sources that are certified by the RSPO have a lower environmental impact during production.
Most toothpastes contain silica, and this one is no exception. Silica is commonly obtained from sand, which is mined. Sand mines can cause erosion and habitat degradation, and are often unregulated. It would be good to have more information on where the silica in this product comes from, but companies very rarely provide (or even have) this information.
This product contains sodium lauryl sulfate, which is harmful to some types of aquatic life. However, the risk posed by the chemical is lowered because it is readily biodegradable. This means a large amount should break down during wastewater treatment, before it is released to the environment.
The taste of the toothpaste comes primarily from sorbitol, xylitol and peppermint oil. Normally it is difficult to evaluate the environmental impact of essential oils, but test results are available for peppermint oil. These results show that peppermint oil is harmful to aquatic life, but it, alongside sorbitol and xylitol, is readily biodegradable. Some common sweeteners are not readily biodegradable and are becoming a significant pollution problem, so it is particularly good that this is not the case here.
This product also contains titanium dioxide as a pigment. This is a very common pigment, but titanium dioxide often contains some nanoparticles. The environmental impacts of nanoparticles are currently not well known.
The packaging for this product has some good aspects, but could be better. The outer cardboard carton is recyclable. But toothpaste tubes are notorious for being unable to be easily recycled, and unfortunately there are currently few alternatives. The tube can be sent to Terracycle for recycling in a number of countries, but something that could be popped in kerbside recycling would be best.
But does it work?
Considering how well a product works is a big factor in determining whether a product is a good one or not. A product that does not work is a waste.
Image credit: THE pepper EXPRESS