Multinational consumer goods company, Unilever, has made a commitment to reducing its use of plastics and minimising plastic waste across its enormous product portfolio. Unilever has pledged to halve its use of virgin plastic, reduce its use of plastic packaging by 100 000 tonnes and start using more recycled plastic for its products by 2025.
The company is also aiming to collect and recycle more plastic packaging than it sells across the globe. The multinational company will also make use of extended investments and partnerships to improve the waste management infrastructure in many of the countries in which Unilever operates, such as South Africa.
Unilever’s efforts to reduce plastic usage
Unilever currently produces around 700 000 tonnes of plastic packaging per year. It owns brands such as Dove, Lipton, Omo and Knorr. In its effort to reduce its use of plastic packaging, Unilever will start with an absolute reduction of 100 000 tonnes of plastic by investing in reusable packaging and plastic-free alternatives. Replacing virgin plastic with recycled plastic will help to reduce its usage of virgin polymers further.
Unilever has pledged to support local waste management efforts by collecting and recycling more plastic packaging than it sells. This means that Unilever will need to collect and process around 600 000 tonnes of plastic every year by 2025 – after the 100 000 absolute reduction in plastic usage.
The company will boost recycling rates by investing in waste collection efforts and partnering with local recycling companies. Unilever will also purchase and use more recycled plastics for its products. It has committed to paying for the collection and recycling of its own plastic packaging as part of a producer responsibility scheme.
Unilever is making progress
Currently, Unilever is on track to achieve these commitments to ensure that all of its packaging is recyclable or reusable and to use at least 25% recycled plastic for 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,” says Unilever chief executive officer Alan Jope.
“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. We are also committed to ensuring all our plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable,” he explains.
“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 reuse and refill formats, at an unprecedented speed and intensity,” concludes Jope.
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