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Unilever calls for accelerated industry action on packaging waste

23 January 2018. Unilever today called for the consumer goods industry to step-up its efforts to tackle the mounting challenge of ocean plastic waste and create a circular economy for plastics.

One year after Unilever made its industry-leading commitment to ensure 100% of its plastic packaging was fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, CEO Paul Polman welcomed news that 10 companies [https://newplasticseconomy.org/news] have made similar pledges.

He urged more to step forward to accelerate the industry’s progress towards the circular economy and address plastic leakage into the world’s natural systems including waterways and oceans.

Research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) has found that the equivalent of one dumper truck’s worth of plastic enters the oceans every minute, and by 2050 it forecasts there could be more plastic (by weight) in the ocean than fish. Today, only 14% of plastic packaging gets collected for recycling.

Polman said: “It is welcome news that many other major companies are making their own commitments to address ocean plastic waste. Yet as a consumer goods industry, we need to go much further, much faster, in addressing the challenge of single use plastics by leading a transition away from the linear take-make-dispose model of consumption, to one which is truly circular by design.”

Unilever believes there are four key actions the consumer goods industry should take to create the systemic change required and accelerate the transition to a circular economy:

1) For companies to invest in innovation towards new delivery models that promote reuse.

2) For more companies to commit to 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 and set stretching targets for using post-consumer recycled content.

3) For a Global Plastics Protocol setting common agreed definitions and industry standards on what materials are put into the marketplace, to ensure our packaging is compatible with existing and cost-effective recycling infrastructures.

4) For companies to engage positively in policy discussions with governments on the need for improvements to waste management infrastructure, including the implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes. 

Polman added: “Addressing the issue of ocean plastic is a shared responsibility – all stakeholders in the value chain must work together in partnership to find effective solutions. However, there is no doubt that the response from the consumer goods industry will be amongst the most critical in determining the speed at which positive change takes place. We are at a critical juncture.”

Unilever has made good progress on reducing its waste footprint. Since 2010, the waste associated with the disposal of its products has decreased by 28% and the weight of its packaging has reduced by 15%. The company also stopped sending non-hazardous waste to landfill from its manufacturing sites in 2015.

Alongside its commitment to 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging by 2025, Unilever pledged to source 25% of its resin from post-consumer recycled content by 2025, and to publish its full plastics palette before 2020.

In 2017, the company announced it was making good progress on identifying a technical solution to recycling multi-layered sachets through its Creasolv technology, for which a pilot plant in Indonesia is currently being built to assess its commercial viability. We intend to make this technology open source and would hope to scale it with industry partners, so others – including our competitors – can use it.

Media Inquiries: Please contact the Unilever Press Office at press-office.london@unilever.com 

or +44 20 7822 6719. 
About Unilever 

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Food, Home Care, Personal Care and Refreshment products with sales in over 190 countries and reaching 2.5 billion consumers a day. It has 169,000 employees and generated sales of €52.7 billion in 2016. Over half (57%) of the company’s footprint is in developing and emerging markets. Unilever has more than 400 brands found in homes all over the world, including Persil, Dove, Knorr, Domestos, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Wall’s, PG Tips, Ben & Jerry’s, Magnum and Lynx. 

Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan underpins the company’s strategy and commits to: 

  • Helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being by 2020. 

  • Halving the environmental impact of our products by 2030. 

  • Enhancing the livelihoods of millions of people by 2020. 

The USLP creates value by driving growth and trust, eliminating costs and reducing risks. The company’s sustainable living brands are growing 50% faster than the rest of the business and delivered more than 60% of the company’s growth in 2016. 

Unilever was ranked number one in its sector in the 2017 Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In the FTSE4Good Index, it achieved the highest environmental score of 5. It led the list of Global Corporate Sustainability Leaders in the 2017 GlobeScan/SustainAbility annual survey for the seventh year running. Unilever has pledged to become carbon positive in its operations by 2030.

For more information about Unilever and its brands, please visit www.unilever.com. For more information on the USLP: www.unilever.com/sustainable-living/   

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