One of my regular ID gigs was in "structural package design," i.e. bottles. I've worked on all kinds, and I think laypeople would be surprised to see how many different materials go into your average pump bottle. They're typically primarily polypropylene, but feature other herbs and spices:
The material blend ensures the pump does its job well, with the different plastics working together to minimize friction, not react adversely with the product, take pigment, et cetera. The problem comes when it's time to recycle them. Although the materials are all individually recyclable, they're too small for your average municipal recycling center to separate them cost-effectively, and as a result, your average pump bottle gets shunted into the trash.
Thankfully, some companies have been moving towards a solution. Cosmetics brand Inn Beauty Project says they were the first to release a monomaterial pump that's recyclable in one shot.
However, they don't mention what the material is, nor if the bottle itself is made of the same material; does the consumer need to separate the pump and bottle before recycling? Better messaging is needed.
Brazilian manufacturer Wista Airless Systems is more clear in describing their monomaterial pump bottle: "The full assembly of the Airless SAGE [and] the UD Pump Systems are manufactured with polyethylene. Therefore, once the [product it contains] is finished, the package can be recycled without the need of separating the parts."
Global packaging manufacturer AptarGroup has also joined the party, announcing their new Future pump bottle, which reportedly took two years to design and develop. Made completely from polyethylene—that's both the pump, all of its constituent parts, and the bottle—it can be recycled in one go. "Because the Future pump is made from PE only, it also aligns with the most common materials used to make bottles – PE and PET," the company said in a release. "Therefore, the complete packaging, including pump and bottle, are more easily recycled."
"Our ultimate goal was to have the final consumer be able to take their body lotion, shampoo or shower gel and easily put the empty packaging in their recycling bin," says Sabine Bouillet-Lubot, Global Strategic Marketing Director, Aptar Beauty + Home. "This way, it enters a circular life cycle and can be turned into another product."