Unilever to halve use of new plastic as uproar over waste grows


The consumer products giant Unilever-which owns hundreds of brands from Dove and Seventh Generation to Hellman's and Breyers-uses 700,000 metric tons of plastic in its packaging every year.

The company also promised to help collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells through investments and partnerships in developing waste management facilities in numerous markets that it operates.

The move, according to Unilever CEO Alan Jope, will demand a "fundamental rethink" in its packaging policies.

Unilever's commitment will require the business to help collect and process around 600,000 tonnes of plastics annually by 2025. This will be delivered through investment and partnerships which improve waste management infrastructure in numerous countries in which Unilever operates.

"Global producers like Unilever, P&G, Nestle and Coca Cola know that their consumers want to buy products free from unsustainable and unnecessary packaging, so now it's time for the government to act and make good on its commitment to regulate and drive change so all producers play their part to preserve natural resources and tackle the scourge of plastic waste leakage littering our countryside and polluting the oceans".

Unilever aims to achieve the goal by reducing its use of all plastics by 100,000 metric tons and using more recycled plastic.

It has also signed up to the Loop platform, which is exploring new ways of delivering and collecting reusable products from consumers' homes.

The firm said by ensuring waste is reused, recycled or composted, companies can ensure it never reaches the environment - it added if even one of its bottles ends up polluting the planet, that would be "one too many".

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The new strategy was welcomed by environmental campaigner Ellen MacArthur, who hailed it as a "significant step in creating a circular economy for plastic".

Alternative methods it has tried recently include shampoo bars, refillable toothpaste tablets, cardboard deodorant sticks and bamboo toothbrushes.

Unilever said the new goals build on existing packaging targets that it is already on track to meet, including its pledges to all its plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, and that it uses at least 25 per cent recycled plastic in its packaging by the same date. "This is a daunting but exciting task which will help drive global demand for recycled plastics".

"Plastic has its place, but that place is not in the environment", Jope said, in what can be seen as a bold commitment on behalf of the company given the size and scope of its business.

USA coffee giant Starbucks is meanwhile planning to ban plastic straws by 2020 while Walt Disney Co. said it would replace small plastic shampoo bottles at its resorts and many British supermarkets have drastically cut down plastic bag use.

Marmite-maker Unilever has announced it will cut it's plastic use to half. Alongside these efforts, it has established 3,000 waste banks in Indonesia and thereby enabled 400,000 people to recycle their plastics in the absence of dedicated collections.

"This is part of responding to society but also remaining relevant for years to come in the market".