Unilever commits to further plastic waste reduction goals

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Unilever commits to further plastic waste reduction goals

By David Salazar - 10/11/2019

Unilever this week announced plans to further reduce its plastic waste dramatically while helping create a circular plastics economy. 

By 2025, the company has committed to cut its use of virgin plastic in half by reducing its total use of plastic packaging by more than 100,000 tons and increasing its use of recycled plastics. It also has plans to collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells in that same time period. The company said it already is on track to achieve its existing plastic reduction goals, including ensuring all packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable and use at least 25% recycled plastic in its packaging by 2025. 

“Plastic has its place, but that place is not in the environment. We can only eliminate plastic waste by acting fast and taking radical action at all points in the plastic cycle,” said Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever. “Our starting point has to be design, reducing the amount of plastic we use, and then making sure that what we do use increasingly comes from recycled sources. This demands a fundamental rethink in our approach to our packaging and products. It requires us to introduce new and innovative packaging materials and scale up new business models, like re-use and re-fill formats, at an unprecedented speed and intensity.”

The new commitment will require Unilever to collect and process roughly 600,000 tons of plastic every year by 2025 through partnerships and investments aimed at improvement waste management infrastructure in the companies where it does business. Other efforts to meet its collection pledge will include purchasing and using recycled plastics in its packaging and being part of extended producer responsibility efforts where the company pays directly for packaging collection. To meet its virgin plastic reduction goal, Unilever said it would need to use no more than 350,000 tons by 2025, with roughly a third coming from absolute plastic reduction — including use of alternative packaging materials or sale of naked products. 

Since 2017, the company said it has been transforming its plastic packaging under three pillars — Less Plastic, Better Plastic and No Plastic. Less Plastic has seen the company revamp its packaging and delivery methods; Better Plastic has led to innovations that include a detectable pigment that makes black plastic recyclable and packaging made of 100% recycled plastic through a deposit program; and No Plastic has led to such innovations as shampoo bars, refillable toothpaste tubes and its partnership with Loop, which is exploring new ways of delivering and collecting reusable products from consumers’ homes. 

“Our vision is a world in which everyone works together to ensure that plastic stays in the economy and out of the environment,” Jope said. “Our plastic is our responsibility and so we are committed to collecting back more than we sell, as part of our drive towards a circular economy. This is a daunting but exciting task which will help drive global demand for recycled plastic.”

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