To better align with green initiatives worldwide, the British-Dutch conglomerate Unilever recently pledged to invest in a more circular economy for plastics via a two-part plan. First, by the year 2025, Unilever will halve the bulk of its non-recycled plastic packaging waste. Secondly, the company will accelerate its recycling endeavors by focusing more on collecting and processing waste plastic rather than selling single-use virgin plastics.
Unilever shared on its website that it pledges to “make the blue planet blue again” and especially commits to “making sustainable living commonplace.” To do so, the company will follow a three-pronged approach: 1) investing and partnering to better the waste management infrastructure, 2) purchasing and utilizing recycled plastics, rather than virgin plastics, in its packaging and 3) participating in extended responsibility programs that directly pay for the collection of all Unilever packaging.
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Currently, Unilever uses about 700,000 tons of plastic packaging annually. To curb its association with the growing plastic pollution crisis, the company will cut its plastic use by 100,000 tons. Unilever vows to replace single-use plastic packaging with recycled materials in a shift toward reusable, refillable and even compostable alternatives. Unilever will also annually collect and recycle more than 600,000 tons of plastic.
“Our plastic is our responsibility, and so we are committed to collecting back more than we sell, as part of our drive toward a circular economy,” said Alan Jope, Unilever CEO. “This is a daunting but exciting task, which will help drive global demand for recycled plastic.”
Unilever is a portfolio powerhouse, owning many popular brands in both the food and cosmetics industries. It is the parent company that manufactures and distributes Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Breyers ice cream, Klondike bars, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Knorr spices and Lipton ice tea. Among its many cosmetics lines, Unilever owns Brut aftershave, Dove soap, Noxzema, Pond’s, Q-tips, Suave shampoo and conditioner and Vaseline.
Despite its behemoth range of products that rely on plastic packaging, Unilever has been operating under the “Less, Better, No” plastic framework, planning to eliminate unnecessary packaging by innovating with the refill, reuse and recycled plastic sector as it moves away from virgin plastics.
“Over the last five years, Unilever has collaborated with many partners to collect plastic packaging, including the United Nations Development Programme, to help segregate, collect and recycle packaging across India,” reads a company press release. “In addition, it has helped to establish almost 3,000 waste banks in Indonesia, offering more than 400,000 people the opportunity to recycle their waste. In Brazil, Unilever has a long-running partnership with retailer Grupo Pão de Açúcar to help collect waste through drop-off stations.”
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