Unilever to halve use of new plastic as uproar over waste grows

Andrew Cummings
October 8, 2019

Unilever said that come 2025 it expects to be collecting and processing around 600,000 tonnes of plastic a year - equal to its reduced overall footprint, and to be using no more than 350,000 tonnes of virgin plastic. Last month, Sainsbury's said selling milk and fizzy drinks in returnable glass bottles was an option as part of its plastic reduction drive, while Tesco will ban brands that use excessive packaging from its stores from next year.

The maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry's ice cream said it will reduce its overall use of plastic by 100,000 tons yearly and step up recycling to achieve the goal. The company will look at introducing new and innovative packaging materials and scale up new business models, like re-use and re-fill formats, at an unprecedented speed and intensity, Jope added. "By eliminating unnecessary packaging through innovations such as refill, reuse, and concentrates, while increasing their use of recycled plastics, Unilever is demonstrating how businesses can move away from virgin plastics". We can only eliminate plastics waste by acting fast and taking radical action at all points in the plastics cycle. It also plans to accelerate its use of recycled plastics in products as part of a target of having 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging by the same date.

The firm is responsible for producing 700,000 tonnes of new plastic a year.

Now, Unilever has added its name to the list of firms promising to cut back on plastic with a pledge to recycle as much plastic as it makes by 2025.

Jope said in a statement: "Plastics has its place, but that place is not in the environment".

The company plans to achieve this through direct investment and partnerships in waste collection and processing in numerous countries where it operates.

Hamburger chain Burger King also announced in September that it would stop handing out plastic toys in its children's meals in its British restaurants, saving an estimated 320 tonnes of single-use plastic each year.

Jope indicated that design will be a key element to how it reduces plastic going forward.

This strategy comes in addition to its commitment to using fully recyclable or compostable packaging, along with its packaging containing 25% recycled plastic, by 2025.

Alternative methods it has tried recently include shampoo bars, refillable toothpaste tablets, cardboard deodorant sticks and bamboo toothbrushes. Unilever has been exploring new ways of packaging since 2017.

Established in 1929, Unilever owns more than 400 consumer brands and reported sales of $56 billion past year.

It has also introduced concentrated products, such as the new Cif Eco-refill which eliminates 75% plastic packaging, new refill stations for shampoo and laundry detergent in shops, universities, and mobile vending systems in South East Asia.

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