Unilever, owner of brands including Dove, Ben & Jerry's, Lipton and Omo, has announced ambitious new commitments to reduce its plastic waste and help create a circular economy for plastics.
Unilever has confirmed that by 2025 it will:
- Halve its use of virgin plastic, by reducing its absolute use of plastic packaging by more than 100,000 tonnes and accelerating its use of recycled plastic.
- Help collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells.
Unilever said it is already on track to achieve its existing commitments to ensure all its plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, and to use at least 25 percent recycled plastic in its packaging, also by 2025.
"Plastic has its place, but that place is not in the environment,” said Alan Jope, Unilever CEO, in a statement. “We can only eliminate plastic waste by acting fast and taking radical action at all points in the plastic cycle. 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.”
"This demands a fundamental rethink in our approach to our packaging and products,” added Jope. “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."
Unilever's commitment will require the business to help collect and process around 600,000 tonnes of plastic annually by 2025. This will be delivered through investment and partnerships that aim to improve waste management infrastructure in many of the countries in which Unilever operates.
"Today's announcement by Unilever is a significant step in creating a circular economy for plastic,” said Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in a statement. “By eliminating unnecessary packaging through innovations such as refill, reuse and concentrates, while increasing their use of recycled plastic, Unilever is demonstrating how businesses can move away from virgin plastics. We urge others to follow their lead, so collectively we can eliminate the plastic we don't need, innovate, so what we do need is circulated, and ultimately build an economic system where plastic packaging never becomes waste."
Since 2017, Unilever has been transforming its approach to plastic packaging through its “Less, Better, No” plastic framework. Through the framework, Unilever said it has explored new ways of packaging and delivering products—including concentrates, such as its new Cif Eco-refill, which eliminates 75 percent of plastic, and new refill stations for shampoo and laundry detergent rolled out across shops, universities and mobile vending in Southeast Asia.
Better plastic has led to pioneering innovations such as the new detectable pigment being used by Axe (Lynx) and TRESemmé, which makes black plastic recyclable, as it can now be seen and sorted by recycling plant scanners, and the Lipton “festival bottle,” which is made of 100 percent recycled plastic and is collected using a deposit scheme.
As part of No plastic, Unilever has brought to the market innovations including shampoo bars, refillable toothpaste tablets, cardboard deodorant sticks and bamboo toothbrushes. It has also signed up to the Loop platform, which is exploring new ways of delivering and collecting reusable products from consumers' homes.