Consumer goods giant Unilever vows to slash use of plastic

Marco Green
October 7, 2019

Unilever's commitment will require the business to help collect and process around 600,000 tonnes of plastic annually by 2025.

The consumer giant, which also owns household brands such as Ben & Jerry's and Dove, said it will cut more than 100,000 tonnes of plastic packaging out of its supply chain through new commitments to reduce waste.

Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Europe, Fleur van Bruggen, communications director at Unilever, said: "We are going to halve the amount of virgin plastic we use, but that's across all packaging: home care, personal care and foods as well, and of course, the majority is in home care and personal care". "For instance, if you look at shampoo, a glass bottle wouldn't be the safest alternative, so you have to look at other alternatives".

Its chief executive, Alan Jope, said: "Plastic has its place but that place is not in the environment".

Unilever previously pledged to make all its plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 and to use at least 25% recycled plastic in packaging by that year.

Meanwhile, Nestle announced that it would phase out all non-recyclable plastics from its wrappers by 2025 and Coca Cola has said that it will double the amount of recycled plastic it uses in the 200,000 bottles it makes every single minute by next year.

Last month, major United Kingdom grocer Sainsbury's (SBRY.L) said it will sell milk and fizzy drinks in returnable glass bottles while Tesco (TSCO.L) will eventually ban brands that use "excessive" plastic packaging.

Jope said Unilever was fundamentally rethinking its approach to packaging and product development as it tried to become more sustainable.

He said meeting the new targets will require "new and innovative packaging materials" and a rapid increase in packaging that can be reused or refilled. The multinational, which owns the TRESemmé, Surf and Signal, is also testing refill stations for shampoo and laundry detergent in south-east Asia. As part of its No Plastic initiative, Unilever has brought to the market innovations including shampoo bars, refillable toothpaste tablets, cardboard deodorant sticks and bamboo toothbrushes, the compnay said. Alongside these efforts, it has established 3,000 waste banks in Indonesia and thereby enabled 400,000 people to recycle their plastics in the absence of dedicated collections.

Paula Chin, a sustainable materials specialist at the United Kingdom arm of World Wide Fund for Nature, said businesses, producers and governments needed to take more responsibility for the problem.

"Plastic pollution is the most visible example of the environmental crisis we're facing", she said. "The natural world isn't a luxury - it is our life support system, and we must act now to protect it before it's too late".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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