Core values: Recycling and the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan

Recycling is one of the most effective ways to help sustain the environment, which is why we’ve made it a core part of our business and social mission.

Core Values: Recycling And The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan

Our goal of reducing environmental impact is deeply embedded in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) as a key factor to help reduce energy consumption, pollution and landfill build-up. Julie Zaniewski, the Unilever Packaging Sustainability Manager, says this plan has been “a major catalyst in setting the agenda for our packaging program.”

We have seen how focusing on recycling can have big results, and with your help, we can reach our ambitious goals for the future.

Actions taken

Through a combination of lightening material and optimizing design, we reduced packaging weight per consumer use by 11% from 2010 to 2013.

“Through design, we have improved aesthetics while reducing our impact,” Julie says, citing Noxzema®’s redesigned cleansing cream package which uses 45% less plastic per jar.

Our packaging changes also include more recycled plastic or “post-consumer resin”; we incorporated more than 3,200 tons of this recycled material in 2013. Body wash bottles from Dove®, and St. Ives® use 25% recycled material for more eco-friendly packaging.

“When technologies we develop have potential to transform the industry, we make it available to others,” says Julie. Our new lightening technology that injects air bubbles into the walls of the bottles is a perfect example: it reduces plastic use by at least 15%, without making the bottles less recyclable, and Unilever plans to waive exclusivity rights so others can adopt our plastic saving technique. Utilizing this process across all Unilever products could save up to 27,000 tons of plastic per year.

Goals achieved

Focusing on recycling is part of the reason we were able to reach the major USLP goal of sending zero non-hazardous waste to landfill. We achieved this by first reducing waste, but then recycling in innovative ways, like turning waste into low-cost building materials. Focusing on recycling allowed us to reach this milestone a whole five years ahead of our 2020 target.

Looking forward

As Julie says, “We are building the capability to raise our packaging to the next level of sustainability,” and when it comes to recycling, the more people who participate, the better. By 2020, we will use the maximum possible level of recycled materials in our packaging, saving thousands of tons of plastic. But we’ll need sustainable people like you to recycle even more to provide us with enough post-consumer resin. If you rinse and recycle your plastic bottles, we can reimagine them to help keep plastic out of landfills and create a #brightFuture and cleaner planet together.

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