Trouble viewing video? Try Alt Link 1, Alt Link 2.
Innovations in Tube Packaging

Dr. Hurley 
I'm here with the great Dr. Suggs. Dr. Suggs was invited to judge the Tube Council's Tube of the Year Awards. I mean, look at all these tubes. It is incredible—the amount of innovations, the different materials that are being presented here, the different functions, the different way everything came together.

Dr. Suggs
Categories from personal care, dentistry, industrial. . . We're going to talk through some of the tubes that were more of standouts for us this year.

In this video, you will learn about some current material trends in tubes, you will be able to define PCR, and understand why it's important. We will also cover some popular barrier types for packaging tubes, including EVOH. We will discuss tube recycling, and the way it is communicated on packages, and lastly, we will highlight some unique tube designs that are setting a new standard for the future.

Dr. Hurley
One thing that really stood out to me was that companies are blending polyethylene, the different densities of polyethylene, actually. We have typically, I think—we’ve got low-density and high-density polyethylene. So you think about those grocery bags of high-density polyethylene. But here, in a lot of these, we're mixing together high-density and medium-density polyethylene, as well as low-density polyethylene and medium-density polyethylene, just to have that, just another way to get a little bit less weight. Awesome. So also a big theme that we saw was a lot of PCR, and that is post-consumer recycled content. Which is great because we're taking materials that are packaging materials, collecting them, and then putting them back into packaging, which is what I think packaging should do—it should become more packaging. And we've got some great examples here on this one in particular, 70% post-consumer recycled content—varies across the board. One thing that I'd like to point out here is that this particular design uses raw aluminum, and it's not that bad. 

Dr. Suggs
No, we kind of like it!

Dr. Hurley
I mean, I like aluminum. I like aluminum a lot. And they didn't put a print layer on it. They didn't coat it with a bunch of stuff. I mean, I just think aluminum, it just generally feels nice, and they use that raw form for the package type.

Dr. Suggs
Tell us about the back of it. Do they tell us any specifics on how we actually should recycle it?

Dr. Hurley
They do. And they give it in . . . this is not a US-based package, but they clearly designate this as aluminum and to recycle into that aluminum feedstock.

Dr. Suggs
Awesome. Love it. We're talking a lot about EVOH barriers—that seems like a big category or a big barrier item for a lot of these personal care items. Why do you think that is, Dr. Hurley, and do we need that in the future?

Dr. Hurley
I thought it was interesting that in these laminate structures that the print area used that EVOH material, and so they applied it directly onto the base substrate, which is typically polyethylene. However, there was a really interesting tube. This is not a branded one, but this uses a polyethylene with an aluminum, and they claim this is EVOH-free because aluminum has some great barrier properties as well. But combining here, we thought this was pretty innovative.

Dr. Suggs
Yeah. And they actually make a point to say that compared to the tube laminate, so also just comparing these two, this one is just . . . I mean, obviously, they're going to say it's better, but they use a recycle-class criteria to categorize it. So that's fun. And again, like Dr. Hurley said, it's only made of a mono-material.

Dr. Hurley
So, another topic on tubes is recycling. And I know it's a contentious topic and trying to understand—can you actually recycle these things? And what we found in this overview of tubes is that there's a lot of different claims here. I mean, obviously we have our Please Recycle

Dr. Suggs
It is, yes.

Dr. Hurley
When I see this I think, Please Tell Me How to Recycle It, because you're not telling me what's going on here. So we saw quite a bit of this, just the chasing arrows saying, Please Recycle Me.

Dr. Suggs
And so, Dr. Hurley, for that one, too, we know that one, (Dr. Hurley and I know), that one's made of PCR, but the consumer does not know that.

Dr. Hurley
It's correct. And even though this is great, it's using a high level of post-consumer recycled content, it is not in a format that anyone's going to recycle because they just don't know what it is. And then we have things that may have some conflicting messaging. So, we have a particular tube that it says clearly, it's using GreenBlue’s How2Recycle tile, and it says, “Hey, this is not recyclable.” But then we have TerraCycle on top of it. And TerraCycle, it's a program that they will come up and pick this up for you and repurpose it in some way—maybe refill it, or it's a program in order to dispose of the product when it's done.

Dr. Suggs
But actually, have you used TerraCycle? Is it easy? Is it accessible for the normal consumer out there?

Dr. Hurley
I mean, it was a long time ago when I had interactions with it, but I know that it's limited in certain places in the country, but it may have expanded out from now. But there is that particular end-of-life claim on this package. Then we have some pretty bold ones where not just does it say to recycle it, it goes into detail saying that this is a polyethylene tube— it says a number two plastic—and go ahead and recycle it. So, it's telling you specifically to do it. And it even has the cap. And it's telling you exactly what to do with the cap.

Dr. Suggs
And then this one also does that with LDPE. It tells us exactly it's number four. We know that's the resin code, and we like to see that.

Dr. Hurley
This one, on the other hand, instead of taking the content and different densities, this one took some structural innovations. They go through and talk through how micron-thin this laminate is able to be. They also mix the densities of the material. So, it's really a structural innovation. My favorite part here is that they created the most lightweight closure system I've ever seen. So they took time to drill out all of the unnecessary components of the closure. And just showing some examples here of how these could look. I mean, it's pretty interesting. I mean, all of this has been removed. So they core it out. If you think about a clock, there's maybe like 35 degrees that's left on this closure. And it fits really well. I mean, it's pretty incredible, the stability of this and how it opens and closes and functions just like something that might be three times the weight. So, I thought this was a really interesting innovation.

Dr. Suggs
Yeah, and apparently that closure, they have cited that it's 60% lighter than other closures on the market. So again, pretty cool innovation for design. I don't know if we'll see that more in the future.

Dr. Hurley
Yeah. So when I think about concluding all of this, it just talks about how important packaging education is. If you don't understand materials, you're at a huge loss. Because not just the material type here, but the densities of those materials, and then the production processes of these materials. If you want a particular barrier, we're going to go the lamination route. If you're going to be really looking at mixing these different densities of materials, we're going to go the coextrusion route. And then the decoration and to the materiality of where the materials came from, and then engineering those materials to perform specific functions. I mean, tubes has it all.

Dr. Suggs
I know. And this also reminds me that designing tubes and all packaging, for that matter, is just a multitude of stakeholders that have to be involved. When you think about this, Dr. Hurley and I have talked about production, we've talked about design elements, we've talked a big part about sustainability—that means that so many people have to be involved in these discussions. So, that's why at the Packaging School, we talk about all of these different elements for that holistic understanding of packaging.

Dr. Hurley
Absolutely, Dr. Suggs.

Want to Go Further?
Dive into a comprehensive course crafted by subject-matter experts.
Related Lessons
Who We Are

The Packaging School brings together the business, art, and science of packaging so you can lead projects, optimize supply chains, increase margins, and develop sustainable solutions.

Our company headquarters are located in Greenville, SC. Please reach out to us at 864-412-5000 or

Stay Up To Date

Be the first to know about new classes and the latest tools to maximize your knowledge.

By signing up you indicate you have read and agree to our Terms of Use. Packaging School will always respect your privacy.


Certificate of Mastery in Packaging Management

Certificate of Packaging Science

Automotive Packaging Certificate

Certificate of Sustainable Packaging

Food Packaging Certificate

All Courses




Food & Beverage



The Packaging School Logo
South Carolina Commission on Higher Education License #5400
Copyright © 2015-2022 The Packaging School, LLC. All Rights Reserved.