Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It Starts With Us: A Letter to Tom's of Maine

Back in June, I jumped in excitement and gave a virtual high 5 to Harry when I read his open letter to Tom's of Maine regarding their switch from aluminum toothpaste tubes to plastic tubes.  I, like Ellen, had hoped that their inbox would be flooded with emails questioning and challenging their decision.  I said, "I'm going to write a letter, too."  Most often twitter illiterate... my excitement even got me to bust out some tweets:

 OMG! Was just thinking about this today!! U ROCK!! I absolutely LOVE it!! Need to start a campaign w/  ;)

RT  Open letter to Tom's of Maine. U switched to plastic tubes b/c u thought it was better. U were misled

 check it out!  wrote an awesome letter to Tom's of Maine about their switch to  

 I just thought about something. Tom's used to b a small (and awesome) company... aren't they owned by colgate? Hmm..$$$

Yup... I was excited.  I felt motivated.  Then I forgot... until today when I was reading "The House Behind the Other Houses."  Thank you Ellen for the reminder.  This time, I didn't give myself the opportunity to forget.  Today, I followed through because Tom's will never know what I think or why I do what I do unless I tell them... the same goes for you ;) So here it is... my letter to Tom's of Maine:

"Over the past several years, I have been making a concentrated effort to make decisions that positively impact our environment.  Part of this continued effort was started by doing beach clean ups and seeing the negative impact that plastics have on our environment... through production all the way to disposal.  The knowledge I've gained about plastic pollution has led me to strive to reduce the amount of plastics that I do use.  

Years ago, one of the first changes I made was to start buying Tom's of Maine toothpastes for our family of five.  The decision to make the switch to Tom's over other "environmentally friendly" toothpastes was the metal tube.  I appreciated the fact that I could recycle the tube and that the only plastic was the one single plastic lid.  But, recently, that changed.  I read that Tom's thinks it's more environmentally friendly to use the new plastic laminate in lieu of aluminum.  I appreciate that Tom's invested in a study to determine the environmental impact of your toothpaste tubes.  One thing that may have been disregarded in the study is the end life of the product.  As a #7 plastic, the new toothpaste tube can't be recycled and certainly can't be reused... and even if it could be reused, it will eventually end up in a landfill or worse yet our oceans as new virgin plastic will continue being made...a completely unsustainable cycle... plastic is forever.  In my opinion, it's time to rethink the packaging again.
As we're finishing up our last tubes of Tom's toothpastes, I can honestly say that I don't know where to go from here.  I view my role as a consumer to be very important.  I vote with my dollars.  Sustainability is a top priority for our family.  As of now I have yet to make a decision about whether or not our family of five will continue to use Tom's.  My hope is that Tom's realizes this switch to plastic was a horrible mistake and as a forward thinking company is able to come up with a better solution.

Thank you for being a leader in sustainability for over 40 years.  I look forward to Tom's getting back to their roots by dumping the unsustainable plastic trend.


Danielle Richardet

Ok... I've shared mine.  Now it's your turn.  If you use Tom's of Maine toothpaste, take a couple of minutes and write them.  Let them know what you think about the switch from aluminum tubes to plastic.  Tom's of Maine: Contact Us

***********************UPDATE: July 29, 2011**************************

I received the following email from Tom's of Maine.  While I don't agree with everything that was said in the response (ummm... #7 plastic is not recyclable... it's only downcyclable and will eventually end up in a landfill.), I do appreciate the fact that I didn't receive a "form letter" and that they are (or at least seem to be) trying.  So... after receiving their response, I made the decision to go ahead and purchase Tom's of Maine toothpaste.  Over then next several months I'm going to attempt to figure out an alternative solution to plastic packaged toothpastes. :)  My first stop will be trying out homemade toothpaste... I mean toothpaste is really just a recipe put in a tube, right???

"Hi Danielle,

Thank you for your email. I am very sorry to hear of your recent disappointment upon discovering our new laminate tube material. As you can probably imagine, switching to our new tube was a really big decision for our company. The aluminum tubes have been a part of our company for over 40 years.

I do want to assure you that our #7 plastic is recyclable, and we have identified a partner who will recycle and reuse the material as pallet corner protectors and other shipping materials. You can read more about the kinds of materials our tubes will be used to make, here:


We understand that we are very lucky here in Kennebunk to have every code of plastic accepted for recycling in our municipality. If that is not the case where you live, we encourage you to save up any used tubes of ours and send them back to us for recycling. We will gladly reimburse your postage with new product.

Our tubes are also BPA-free, as well as phthalate-free, two considerations we took very seriously in choosing a tube that could withstand our strong natural flavor oils. 

That said, we still recognize that plastic is not the perfect option. Like you, we are committed to sustainability and a clean world. Just today here at our plant in Sanford, Maine, we all took the lunch hour to pick up litter in the neighborhood surrounding our facility.

We are going to continue to look for ways to improve the sustainability of our packaging, and really hope that consumers like you will keep us aware of new options that arise. We appreciate that you do have an opportunity to vote with your dollar, and that you've used that vote to support us all these years. I hope that you will continue to support our company as we look for more sustainable packaging options.

I hope you find this information helpful. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.

Bridget M. Burns 
Citizen's Advocacy Representative