Unilever commits to recyclable plastic packaging by 2025

Unilever Australia

Tuesday, 17 January, 2017

Unilever has committed to ensuring that all of its plastic packaging is fully re-usable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, calling on the entire fast-moving consumer goods industry to accelerate progress towards the circular economy.

“Our plastic packaging plays a critical role in making our products appealing, safe and enjoyable for our consumers,” said Unilever CEO Paul Polman. “Yet it is clear that if we want to continue to reap the benefits of this versatile material, we need to do much more as an industry to help ensure it is managed responsibly and efficiently post-consumer use.”

Treating plastic packaging as a valuable resource to be managed efficiently and effectively is a key priority in achieving Unilever’s Sustainable Development Goal 12 (Sustainable Consumption & Production) and, in doing so, shifting away from a ‘take-make-dispose’ model of consumption to one which is fully circular. Specifically, the company has committed to:

  • ensuring that by 2025, it is technically possible for its plastic packaging to be re-used or recycled and there are established, proven examples of it being commercially viable for plastics re-processors to recycle the material;
  • renewing its membership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) for another three years and endorse and support the New Plastics Economy initiative. As part of this, it will publish the full ‘palette’ of plastics materials used in its packaging by 2020 to help create a plastics protocol for the industry;
  • investing in proving, and then sharing with the industry, a technical solution to recycle multilayered sachets, particularly for coastal areas, which are most at risk of plastics leaking into the ocean.

Unilever has additionally committed to reduce the weight of the packaging it uses this decade by one-third by 2020 and increase its use of recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25% by 2025 against a 2015 baseline. In 2015, it achieved its commitment of sending zero non-hazardous waste to landfill across its manufacturing operations.

“We hope these commitments will encourage others in the industry to make collective progress towards ensuring that all of our plastic packaging is fully recyclable and recycled,” said Polman.

“We also need to work in partnership with governments and other stakeholders to support the development and scaling up of collection and reprocessing infrastructure which is so critical in the transition towards a circular economy. Ultimately, we want all of the industry’s plastic packaging to be fully circular.”

“By committing to ambitious circular economy goals for plastic packaging, Unilever is contributing to tangible system change and sends a strong signal to the entire fast-moving consumer goods industry,” said Ellen MacArthur. “Combining upstream measures on design and materials with post-use strategies demonstrates the system-wide approach that is required to turn the New Plastics Economy into reality.”

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