Old Spice and Secret Roll Out Cardboard Deodorant Tubes — But P&G Still Has a Lot of Work to Do

The corporation is still one of the world's largest plastic polluters.

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Apr. 23 2020, Updated 1:04 p.m. ET

gm old spice secret
Source: Courtesy of Procter & Gamble

If you’ve been in the zero-waste game for a while now, you may already own deodorant in a compostable cardboard tube, likely purchased online from a small, all-natural company. However, it looks like the big guys are finally catching onto this sustainable trend, as both Secret and Old Spice just launched deodorant in cardboard packaging.

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Massive consumer goods corporation Procter & Gamble owns both deodorant brands, and in honor of Earth Day, the company is rolling out paper tube versions of Old Spice’s Cedar and Salt scent and Secret’s Rose + Geranium scent, both of which are aluminum-free. The plastic-free tubes feature a push-up design and are made of 90 percent recycled paper and are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. It’s unclear what the remaining 10 percent is made from — but if it is also paper-based, then that would make the tubes compostable. 

While there are many smaller brands who sell plastic-free deodorant, P&G claims to be the first major brand to sell plastic-free deodorant. The products will be available at 500 Walmart stores across the U.S. beginning in May. If the trial goes well, P&G says it will continue to expand the new packaging. The two brands partnered with actor couple Ian Somerhalder and Nikki Reed to promote the new packaging. 

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P&G is one of the world’s top plastic polluters. According to an audit of the Philippines’ Freedom Island published by Greenpeace in 2017, P&G ranked No. 5 on the list of companies responsible for the most pollution on the island. That’s really no surprise, considering how many brands P&G operates — in addition to Secret and Old Spice, P&G owns dozens of other well-known brands, including Febreze, Tide, Oral-B, Crest, Charmin, Bounty, Vicks, Pantene, Pampers, Luvs, Head & Shoulders, Gillette, Dawn, Tampax, Pepto-Bismol… the list goes on.

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Unfortunately, Secret and Old Spice are not certified cruelty-free, because P&G still tests its products and chemicals on animals. Breeding animals, testing chemicals on them (in callous ways, such as pouring chemicals into their eyes or down their throats), and then killing them after the tests are completed is not sustainable in any way. Many consumers who prioritize purchasing plastic-free products are also concerned about not supporting massive corporations, animal testing, products with toxic chemicals, or greenwashing, meaning these deodorants are not quite aimed at the zero-waste community.

Instead, maybe these products will be a stepping stone for Walmart customers who are at the beginning of their sustainable living journeys or who do not have access to plastic-free deodorant from ethical brands.

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It is definitely a positive thing that major brands are catching onto eco-friendly packaging trends, but these two deodorants only represent a very small fraction of P&G’s entire product line. P&G will need to introduce sustainable packaging for far more products before the company can significantly reduce its environmental footprint.

There are plenty of zero-waste deodorant options on the market. For example, Meow Meow Tweet sells natural deodorant in both paper tubes and glass jars, and Ethique sells deodorant bars (think a bar of soap but it’s deodorant); both brands are cruelty-free, vegan, and available at Target. Click here for our guide to natural, zero-waste deodorants, and here for an easy DIY deodorant recipe.

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