Unilever, which owns brands such as Ben & Jerry’s, Knorr, and Lipton, has announced plans to halve its use of virgin plastic by 2025.
The company will aim to reduce its absolute use of plastic packaging by more than 100,000 tonnes, accelerate its use of recycled plastic as well as collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells.
Unilever said it is on track to achieve its existing commitments to ensure all its plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 – and to use at least 25% recycled plastic in its packaging, also by 2025.
“Plastic has its place, but that place is not in the environment. We can only eliminate plastic waste by acting fast and taking radical action at all points in the plastic cycle,” said Alan Jope, Unilever CEO.
“Our starting point has to be design, reducing the amount of plastic we use, and then making sure that what we do use increasingly comes from recycled sources. We are also committed to ensuring all our plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable.
“This demands a fundamental rethink in our approach to our packaging and products. It requires us to introduce new and innovative packaging materials and scale up new business models, like reuse and refill formats, at an unprecedented speed and intensity.”
Unilever’s commitment will require the business to help collect and process around 600,000 tonnes of plastic annually by 2025. This will be delivered through investment and partnerships that improve waste management infrastructure in many of the countries in which it operates.
Jope added: “Our vision is a world in which everyone works together to ensure that plastic stays in the economy and out of the environment. Our plastic is our responsibility and so we are committed to collecting back more than we sell, as part of our drive towards a circular economy. This is a daunting but exciting task which will help drive global demand for recycled plastic.”
Ellen MacArthur, founder, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: “Today’s announcement by Unilever is a significant step in creating a circular economy for plastic. By eliminating unnecessary packaging through innovations such as refill, reuse, and concentrates, while increasing their use of recycled plastic, Unilever is demonstrating how businesses can move away from virgin plastics.
“We urge others to follow their lead, so collectively we can eliminate the plastic we don’t need, innovate, so what we do need is circulated, and ultimately build an economic system where plastic packaging never becomes waste.”
Last month, Unilever revealed that all its sites across five continents are now powered by 100% renewable grid electricity, meeting its 2020 target ahead of time.
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