Technological watch

Unilever reports good progress on its sustainable packaging goals

Unilever continues to make progress towards its ambitious commitments for a waste-free world, despite the challenging environment created by COVID-19. Unilever’s commitments remain unchanged and the company has significantly stepped up its use of recycled plastic.

Last year, Unilever became the first major consumer goods company to commit to an absolute plastic reduction across its portfolio. By 2025, the company confirmed it will halve its use of virgin plastic by reducing its use of plastic packaging by more than 100,000 metric tons and accelerating its use of recycled plastic.

One year on, Unilever has stepped up its use of post-consumer recycled plastic (PCR) to around 75,000 metric tons, which is over 10 percent of the company’s plastic footprint. This marks a significant increase from 2019, and represents solid progress towards its goal to use at least 25 percent PCR by 2025. Unilever expects its use of PCR to double in the next 12 months.

Moreover, new innovations have been launched to reduce the company’s absolute use of plastic, such as recyclable paper-based ice cream tubs which will save about 4,500 metric tons of plastic.

Unilever continues to "test, learn and refine" new business models linked to reusable and refillable packaging, and now has dedicated teams to scale work in this space, while developing country-specific roadmaps to help collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells.

“It’s still early days. But by making refill and reuse formats more widely available, accessible, and affordable, we hope to use our scale and reach to drive lasting change,” said Richard Slater, Unilever’s Chief R&D Officer

In addition, the company continues to explore new ways of delivering products through its "Less, Better, No" plastic framework.

Its Love, Beauty and Planet personal care brand, for example, has launched concentrated shampoo and conditioners which provide the same number of uses as a regular sized bottle and use 50% less plastic. Dove has moved to 100 percent recycled "better" plastic bottles where technically feasible in North America and Europe, while as part of "No Plastic," Seventh Generation has launched a zero-plastic range and PG Tips will remove the plastic film on boxes in 2021, having already launched fully biodegradable teabags.

“To tackle the root causes of plastic waste we need to think differently about packaging. We need bold innovations that challenge existing designs, materials and business models. Our priority is to fundamentally rethink our approach to packaging, and pave the way for new solutions such as reusable and refillable formats,” Slater concluded.

Publication date: 30/10/2020

Plastics News - packaging


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.