Image source: Unilever
Following in the footsteps of P&G and Nestle—who recently shared their company-wide targets to make drastic plastic reductions—FMCG giant Unilever announced yesterday, an ambitious commitment to have a virgin plastic packaging footprint of no more than 350,000 tons by 2025.
Currently, the Anglo-Dutch firm’s plastic packaging footprint is around 700,000 tons each year. This covers operations for around 400 brands, which include Magnum ice creams, Lipton teas and Dove soaps, serving around 2.5 billion consumers across more than 190 countries daily. The new move is in line with Unilever’s wider vision to make all of its plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
Of the 350,000 tons of virgin plastic Unilever will cut, it said 100,000 tons will come from an outright reduction in the use of plastic packaging and adopting reusable or refillable solutions. The other 250,000 tons of the reduction will come from recycled plastics. To meet this goal, the company has vowed to help collect more packaging than it sells. Unilever CEO Alan Jope, stated that the plan’s execution will require a “fundamental rethink” in the company’s packaging policies. It will deliver this commitment by purchasing and using recycled plastics in its packaging, invest in waste management infrastructure and partake in extended producer responsibility programs.
Unilever has already begun selling toothbrushes made of bamboo, and cardboard deodorant sticks and refillable toothpaste tablets. In South East Asia, it is also piloting shampoo and laundry detergent refill stations in universities, shops and vending machines.
The company is also a participant in an industry initiative, called Loop, to work on solutions to limit future waste. As part of the initiative, about 100 items have reusable packaging. Instead of disposing of a finished product, customers put the empty containers in a Loop tote on their doorstep. The container is then collected, cleaned, refilled and delivered to customers again.
P&G, Nestle, PepsiCo, Danone, and Mondelez International were among the other consumer goods signatories on this “disposable to durable” movement. Such commitments to increase recycled content in packaging support research findings, which indicate a new demand for recycled plastics of 5 million to 7.5 million metric tons by 2030. According to the World Economic Forum, plastic packaging waste represents an $80 billion to $120 billion loss to the global economy every year.