By 2025 all of Unilever’s plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or biodegradable
By 2025 all of Unilever’s plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or biodegradable

Unilever pledges to go green on all plastic packaging

16 January 2017

The consumer goods giant Unilever has pledged to make all of its plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

The manufacturer of household brands, including Persil, Sure and Marmite, has also said it will publish the full range of plastic materials used in its packaging by 2020 to help create a “plastic protocol” for the industry.

This will form part of its renewed commitment to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a charity that promotes sustainable design, the firm said in a statment. 

In addition, Unilever said it will invest in developing solutions to recycle multi-layered sachets – plastic pouches that are lined with other materials, often foil and aluminium – which it will share with the industry.

Last year Unilever announced 700 of its sites, including all of its European operations, were sending zero waste to landfill.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates just 14% of the plastic packaging used globally is recycled, and predicts the ocean will contain more plastic than fish by 2050. The charity calls for a “circular economy”, where products and packaging are designed with strategies for their reuse or recycling in mind.

“It is clear that if we want to continue to reap the benefits of this versatile material [plastic], we need to do much more as an industry to help ensure it is managed responsibly and efficiently post consumer-use,” said Paul Polman, Unilever CEO.

He added that Unilever needed to work with governments and other stakeholders to scale up the infrastructure for collecting and processing used plastics. “Ultimately we want all of the industry’s plastic packaging to be fully circular.”

Unilever’s announcement coincides with the publication of a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the future of the plastic economy, written in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Without “fundamental redesign and innovation”, 30% of plastic packaging will never be reused or recycled, the report said. It called for a boost in material innovation, alternative packaging and the upscaling of plastic processing infrastructure, as part of its New Plastic Economy Initiative.

WEF is currently hosting its annual summit at Davos.

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