Unilever is on track to achieve its sustainability goals. @ JOHN THYS / Stringer
Unilever is on track to achieve its sustainability goals. @ JOHN THYS / Stringer

Unilever aims to cut plastic packaging by 50%

8 October 2019

Consumer goods firm Unilever has pledged to cut 50% of virgin plastic use and adopt a circular economy for plastics.

Unilever has announced that it will eliminate more than 100,000 tonnes of absolute plastic packaging by 2025.

This will account for a third of the reduction and replacing non-recycled plastic packaging with recycled plastic will make up the rest.  

Unilever aims to create more of a circular economy by collecting and processing more plastic packaging than it sells.

The firm will need to help collect and process around 600,000 tonnes of plastic packaging each year by 2025 to be able to meet this commitment. Investments and partnerships in waste management infrastructure will play a key role in delivering this, said Unilever.

The firm said it is on track to meet its current sustainability goals to make all of its plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, and to use at least 25% recycled plastic in its packaging, also by 2025.

It is the “first major global consumer goods company to commit to an absolute plastics reduction across its portfolio”, according to Unilever.

Alan Jope, CEO at Unilever, said: “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. It requires us to introduce new and innovative packaging materials and scale up new business models, like re-use and re-fill formats, at an unprecedented speed and intensity.”

Meanwhile John Lewis & Partners is trialling a sustainable “buyback scheme” at its Oxford store which allows “my John Lewis” members to return unwanted womenswear or menswear clothes in the brands stocked at the department store. 

Members can return a maximum of three clothing items and will receive £3 per item. The initiative aims to combat the increasing amount of clothes that end up in landfill and returned clothes will be mended to create new items and resold or recycled.

Separately 20 UK universities, including Newcastle, Exeter, Aberystwyth and Anglia Ruskin, have signed a renewable energy deal that will cut costs and carbon emissions. 

The power purchase agreement enables the universities to buy £50m of renewable energy sourced from wind farms at a fixed rate for 10 years. This will help the institutions meet the UK government’s target to have a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.

Renewable energy producer Statfkraft will provide the wind power from their British wind farms.

Separately glasses maker Cubitts has created 10 frames in its London workshop made from recycled waste materials, including potatoes, human hair and old CDs. The company experimented with materials in order to find an alternative to plastic.

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