Unilever Australia & New Zealand has announced a landmark move to introduce Australian sourced post-consumer recycled plastic for bottles of locally made and well-known Home and Personal Care brands such as OMO, Dove, Surf, Sunsilk and TRESemmé.
Unilever will introduce at least 25% recycled plastic into bottles for key brands and go further wherever technically possible. This will create an end market and new life for approximately 750 tonnes of recycled plastic per year – equivalent to more than 100m single-use plastic bags* – and represents a significant step forward in accelerating Australia’s circular economy by creating local demand for rigid plastic (such as shampoo and laundry detergent bottles) recycled through local council yellow kerbside collection bins.
Clive Stiff, CEO Unilever Australia & New Zealand said: “We want to give Australians confidence that for each bottle of OMO, Dove, Sunsilk, Surf or TRESemmé they buy, they are giving a new lease on life to the plastic they recycle in their yellow bins. In short, this move diverts plastic away from landfill.”
Unilever will become the first major consumer goods company in Australia to make the shift to source high volumes of locally recycled High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) plastic across home and personal care brands. HDPE is a more rigid plastic type, used commonly in plastic bottles for home cleaning and personal care products. Previously, recycled HDPE plastic has been challenging to source and use for these product categories due to economic and technical feasibility.
In 2017 Unilever committed globally to design all of its plastic packaging to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 and to use at least 25% recycled plastic packaging by 2025, recognising the need to increase the demand for recycled materials to support the shift to a circular economy. Earlier targets also include reducing the weight of packaging by one third by 2020 through light weighting materials, optimising structural and material design, developing concentrated versions of products and eliminating unnecessary packaging.
“While we are making good progress on our packaging targets in Australia and New Zealand and this represents a significant step forward, there is more work to do with availability as well as economic and technical feasibility still major barriers in using recycled plastic content across our packaging. We also need to continue our work to reduce the amount of packaging we use whilst balancing this with delivering the quality of products our consumers expect,” said Mr Stiff.
“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 this step 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.”
Currently just 14% of plastic packaging used globally makes its way to recycling plants, a third is left in fragile ecosystems, and 40% ends up in landfill. Australia’s recycling rate is 65% across all packaging and 31% for plastic with rates starting to flatline. Plastic packaging waste represents an $80 billion loss to the global economy every year.
“Our work on reducing the impact of our packaging and driving a circular economy is aligned to our Sustainable Living Plan ambition to halve the environmental impact of our business and de-couple our environmental impact from our growth. Addressing environmental and societal challenges such as plastic waste is not only the right thing for our world, but it is good for business,” added Mr Stiff.
Unilever will begin piloting and testing the new recycled plastic bottles over coming months and aims to have the new bottles on shelf as early as possible in 2019.
*Based on average single-use grocery plastic bag weight of 5.5g
Notes to editors
- Unilever Australia and New Zealand’s first product using 25% recycled plastic – OMO Eco Active – hit shelves this May.
- Unilever was amongst the first companies to commit to the voluntary Australasian Recycling Label with the ultimate goal of increasing recycling rates and reducing the amount of waste going to landfill.
- Since 2015, Unilever has supported the REDcycle program, enabling consumers to recycle packaging such as Streets ice-cream wrappers and Continental packs which are then processed into new products such as outdoor furniture for schools and signage. This partnership has helped divert over 2 million packs, or over 3.3 tonnes of flexible plastic packaging, away from landfill.
- Unilever’s packaging light weighting work in Australia has resulted in 20% less plastic in Lipton Ice Tea bottle necks and caps, saving 93 tonnes of plastic each year, while removing foil wrapping and the paperboard trays from Lipton Black Tea bags boxes resulted in a 32% primary packaging reduction for 50 tea bag packs and 35% for 100 tea bag packs. 200ml Sunsilk Shampoo and Conditioner bottles are now also made with 29% less plastic.
- Continuing with the approach of reducing, reusing, recovering or recycling Unilever extended their ambition to become a zero-waste business beyond their factories. In 2015, Unilever’s Australian factories, offices and warehouses joined the list of 600 Unilever sites globally that are sending zero non-hazardous waste to landfill.
- Unilever has reduced food waste through partnerships with Foodbank and OzHarvest. In 2017, we donated 630,900 meals and 6,598 kilograms of non-food items through Foodbank and 49,454 meals through OzHarvest partnership with our Food Solutions business.
- Unilever’s progress in Australia has been recognised by the Australian Packaging Covenant, with Unilever awarded the highest performing organisation in the “Large Pharmacy & Personal Care” category twice and also taking out the overall Recycling Award in 2016.
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About Unilever Australia & New Zealand:
Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Foods & Refreshment, Home and Personal Care products with sales in over 190 countries and reaching 2.5 billion consumers a day. It has 161,000 employees and generated sales of €53.7 billion in 2017. Unilever employs more than 1,300 people locally, and has offices and manufacturing facilities in Australia and New Zealand.
Unilever has more than 400 brands found in homes around the world. In Australia and New Zealand, our brands include Flora, Lipton, Bushells, Dove, Rexona, Lynx, Vaseline, OMO/Persil, Surf, Continental, Toni & Guy, Choysa, Ben & Jerry’s and Streets.
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 46% faster than the rest of the business and delivered 70% of the company’s growth in 2017.
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.
Unilever has been named in LinkedIn’s Top 3 most sought-after employers across all sectors and named Graduate Employer of Choice in Australia.