Colgate has launched a new product that promises to solve the frustration of messy toothpaste tubes. Transparent, so that the contents are visible, this recyclable PET packaging makes sure every last bit of toothpaste is squeezed from the tube – no squeezer required.
Product residues stuck in the packaging are a huge source of waste that often goes unrecognised. More than 50 billion packages are sold every year containing viscous products, leaving enough of the contents behind in these packages to fill up 110,000 semi-trucks. This is not only a waste of product - contaminated packaging cannot be recycled and will either require extra washing steps – which costs extra energy – or it will end up being landfilled or incinerated.
A US-based start-up called LiquiGlide is now commercialising technology to address this problem. Founded by MIT researchers Kripa Varanasi and Dave Smith, LiquiGlide was spun out of MIT in 2012.
The technology is based on the idea of eliminating friction, enabling thick, slow-moving liquids to flow easily, resulting in virtually every last drop of the product exiting the package. This is achieved quite simply through the use of coating layers.
As Executive Vice President and General Manager of LiquiGlide’s Biomedical Division, Dan Rippy, explained, it’s a question of mechanics. Surfaces vary widely by type, he said, but key to LiquiGlide's coatings is a bi-layered approach that creates one layer that becomes solid and textured with microscopic ridges and gaps, and a second liquid layer that fills up these gaps, said Rippy. A durable slippery coating is created through the application of the liquid layer to which the contents of the packaging will not stick. In other words, LiquiGlide fundamentally changes how liquids and solids interact.