Unilever shares ambitious commitments for a waste-free world

At Unilever, we believe that plastic has its place, but that place is not in the environment. We can only eliminate plastic waste by acting fast and taking deliberate action at all points in the plastic cycle.

Our starting point has to be with packaging design, reducing the amount of plastic we use, and then making sure that the plastics we do use come from recycled sources. We are also committed to ensuring all our plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable.

We shared ambitious new global commitments in October 2019 to reduce our plastic waste and to help create a circular economy for plastics. By 2025 across the globe we will:

  • Halve our use of virgin plastic, by reducing our absolute use of plastic packaging by more than 100,000 tonnes and accelerating our use of recycled plastic.
  • Help collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell.

This commitment makes Unilever the first major global consumer goods company to commit to an absolute plastics reduction across its portfolio. We are also on track to achieve our existing 2025 commitments which are to ensure all of our plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable, and to use at least 25% recycled plastic across our packaging.

In Australia and New Zealand we are making good progress towards these targets. Unilever was the first major consumer goods company in Australia and New Zealand to source high volumes of locally sourced post-consumer recycled HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) plastic for our locally made personal care bottles. In 2020 alone we will:

  • Generate demand and a new life for at least 380 tonnes of post-consumer Australian recycled plastic (both HDPE and PET) by working with our suppliers (Visy & Pact) to use recycled content in bottles of Dove, TRESemmé, Toni & Guy, Surf and OMO bottles. Additionally, we’ll use 375 tonnes of recycled plastic in our imported brands including Love, Beauty & Planet and Comfort. This equates to bringing approximately 200,000 yellow kerbside bins* of plastic bottles into a circular economy.
  • Encourage Australians to choose products with Australian recycled plastic packaging through investing in communication, retail partnerships and clear on-pack logos that call out recycled plastic content.
  • Make it easier for recycling facilities to recycle traditionally difficult packaging by extending the use of our pioneering, detectable black pigment innovation for HDPE plastic bottles. Already used in our TRESemmé and Dove brands, this means our black plastic can now be ‘seen’ by recycling plant scanners and sorted for recycling. This new technology means that an additional 100 tonnes of plastic bottles can be sorted and sent for recycling each year in Australia. We’re committed to working with Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) to ensure that this material is detectable through their detection systems.

Through continued innovation, partnerships and education we will continue accelerating our use of Australian recycled plastic beyond 2020.

Clive Stiff, CEO Unilever Australia & New Zealand said: “We want to give Australians confidence that for each bottle of OMO, Dove, Surf, Toni & Guy or TRESemmé they buy, they are giving a new lease on life to the plastic they recycle in their yellow bins. In short, our combined initiatives help to divert plastic away from landfill.”

“Our vision is a world in which everyone works together to ensure that plastic stays in the economy and out of the environment. As a consumer goods company, we are acutely aware of the consequences of a linear take-make-dispose model and we want to change it.

We are proud to be taking these steps forward, but no business can create a circular economy in isolation. Creating a local market and demand for all types of recycled plastic is critical and heavy lifting is needed from all players involved - suppliers, packaging converters, brand owners, policy makers and retailers, collectors, sorters and recyclers. We need a complete shift in how we think about and use resources.”

* Based on an average sample of most frequently purchased Unilever bottles (variety of shapes and sizes) placed in an Australian municipal council kerbside yellow-bin lid.

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