- Contains BHT
- Multiple ingredients are not readily biodegradable
- Tube is small and not easily recyclable
Colgate is an oral care brand owned by the Colgate-Palmolive company. They value continuous improvement and using technology to improve quality of life for their customers.
The main ingredient in their Optic White Express White Toothpaste is propylene glycol. This chemical is readily biodegradable and not toxic to aquatic life, so it should have a low impact on the environment. This product contains some other ingredients that are made of propylene glycol and a similar chemical, which should also have a relatively low environmental impact.
Another ingredient is glycerin. This chemical is often derived from palm oil, but Colgate only uses RSPO certified palm oil. Palm oil sources that are certified by the RSPO have a lower environmental impact during production.
This product also 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 news isn’t so good for the rest of the ingredients. This product contains PVP as another main ingredient. This chemical is big in size, so it is not toxic to aquatic life. However, it is not readily biodegradable. This means it will build up in the environment over time. There is very little information on what it might break down into eventually, or whether the chemicals that it might break down into are toxic to aquatic life.
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.
Compared to other toothpastes, this product also contains a lot of phosphate based ingredients. Phosphate is food for algae, so high levels in waterways can lead to algae blooms. A lot of oxygen is taken out of the water when the algae die. This can suffocate fish and other aquatic life. Human waste contains a lot of phosphate, so the overall impact of phosphate in toothpaste will probably not be that high. That said, phasing out phosphate containing detergents in the 1970s significantly reduced the level of phosphate entering waterways.
The flavouring chemicals are not provided, so there’s not way to know what the environmental impact of these ingredients is.
There are two sweeteners – saccharin and sucralose. Both of these chemicals are becoming widespread pollutants because they are not readily biodegradable. The results of studies indicate that saccharin and sucralose are not toxic to aquatic life when they are exposed to it for a few days, but no tests have been done over longer time periods. Given these chemicals are not readily biodegradable, and are becoming widespread in the environment, it would be good to see the results of some longer term studies.
Finally, the preservative in this product is BHT. This chemical is not readily biodegradable and very toxic to aquatic life. Some studies show that it changes into other chemicals in sunlight, but these chemicals do not appear to degrade further and are expected to be just as toxic. There is also information to suggest that BHT, and the chemicals it changes into, may be bioaccumulative. These properties indicate that these could be chemicals of high concern and have significant environmental impacts.
Toothpaste tubes are notorious for being unable to be easily recycled, and unfortunately there are currently few alternatives. However, the small size of this product means that more packaging has to be used to deliver the same volume as other toothpastes, which is extra wasteful.
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.
This product is popular with users – but so are many other products that have a much lower environmental impact. Search our reviews to find other products that could do the job without compromising the environment.
Image credit: The Grace Tales