As it called on the entire fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry to accelerate progress toward the circular economy, Unilever announced that it has committed to ensuring that all its plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.
Says Unilever, treating plastic packaging as a valuable resource to be managed efficiently and effectively is a key priority in achieving its Sustainable Development Goal 12 (Sustainable Consumption & Production) and, in doing so, shifting away from a “take-make-dispose” model of consumption to one that is fully circular.
To help transform global plastic packaging material flows, Unilever has committed to:
- Ensuring all its plastic packaging is designed to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.
- Renewing its membership of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for another three years and endorsing and supporting their New Plastics Economy initiative. As part of this, it will publish the full “palette” of plastics materials used in its packaging by 2020 to help create a plastics protocol for the industry.
- Investing in proving, and then sharing with the industry, a technical solution to recycle multilayered sachets, particularly for coastal areas that are most at risk of plastics leaking into the ocean.
Unilever has already committed to reduce the weight of the packaging it uses this decade by one-third by 2020, and increase its use of recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25% by 2025 against a 2015 baseline, both as part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. In 2015, it achieved its commitment of sending zero non-hazardous waste to landfill across its manufacturing operations.
Says Paul Polman, Unilever CEO, “Our plastic packaging plays a critical role in making our products appealing, safe, and enjoyable for our consumers. Yet it is clear that if we want to continue to reap the benefits of this versatile material, we need to do much more as an industry to help ensure it is managed responsibly and efficiently post-consumer-use.
“To address the challenge of ocean plastic waste, we need to work on systemic solutions—ones that stop plastics entering our waterways in the first place. We hope these commitments will encourage others in the industry to make collective progress toward ensuring that all of our plastic packaging is fully recyclable and recycled.
“We also need to work in partnership with governments and other stakeholders to support the development and scaling up of collection and reprocessing infrastructure, which is so critical in the transition toward a circular economy. Ultimately, we want all of the industry’s plastic packaging to be fully circular.”
As part of its commitment, Unilever will ensure that by 2025, it is technically possible for its plastic packaging to be reused or recycled, and there are established, proven examples of it being commercially viable for plastics re-processors to recycle the material.