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Waste-free world

Today’s throwaway culture must end. We’re working to keep waste in the economy and out of the environment.

Australia’s iconic Bondi beach

Human activity is creating mountains of waste material that should be recycled or reused. This has to stop. We want to help create a waste-free future.

We’re cutting plastic waste by using less plastic, better plastic or no plastic at all – and calling for a fast transition to a circular economy. And we’re on the front line in the fight against food waste – in our factories and on people’s plates.

By 2025, we will:

  • Halve the amount of virgin plastic we use in our packaging
  • Increase the recycled plastic material content in our packaging to 25%
  • Help collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell
  • Ensure all of our plastic packaging is designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • Halve food waste in our operations

Learn more about our global strategy and goals here and check out the progress we’ve made in Australia and New Zealand below.

Better plastic: Sourcing recycled plastic for our bottles

Bottles of Omo, Tresemme, Simple made with recycled plastic

We’re keeping plastics in the system, and out of the environment, by buying post-consumer recycled (PCR) content. This means that rather than plastic being sent to landfill, we reuse it in our packaging.

We’ve partnered with our suppliers Visy & Pact to source Australian-recycled HDPE plastic. Now, our Australian-made bottles - Dove, OMO, TRESemmé, Surf, and Toni & Guy – are made with 25%-70% recycled plastic. And our imported bottles of Love, Beauty & Planet and Comfort also contain recycled plastic.

Overall, we’ve given a new lease on life to over 1,200 tonnes of recycled plastic in Australia and New Zealand since 2018. That’s equivalent to 200,000 yellow kerbside bins filled with plastic bottles!

Better plastic: Cracking the carbon black code

Bottle of TRESemmé shampoo

Recycling scanners in Material Recovery Facilities (recycling facilities) use near infra-red light to detect and sort materials. But often they are unable to detect and sort black-coloured bottles such as our TRESemmé shampoos.

To address this, in 2019 Unilever scientists pioneered the development of a new detectable black pigment which we now use in our TRESemmé bottles. This means they are now sorted correctly for recycling, saving approximately 110 tonnes of plastic each year.

Less plastic: Concentration and compaction

Bottle of Omo Dilute at Home

Ultra-concentrated products help us give consumers the same products but with much less plastic and smaller packaging. For example, our Omo Dilute at Home Refill is a 3x concentrate formulation which uses 50% less plastic in its packaging, 70% less water in production and it still delivers unbeatable cleaning performance. Smaller bottles also mean they take up less space when we’re transporting them and the more we can fit into one truck, the less trucks there will be on the road which significantly reduces our carbon emissions. It’s a win-win-win!

Less plastic: Experimenting with refill and reuse

People using laundry refill station at Coles supermarket in Monee Ponds

We can’t stop plastic pollution unless we put less plastic into the system in the first place. No plastic means rethinking how we design products, developing whole new business models, and new shopping experiences for our consumers.

In 2021, Unilever Australia and New Zealand announced the launch of its first-ever laundry refillery at Coles, Moonee Ponds, Victoria. The new concept store allows shoppers to refill their old bottles of Omo and Surf laundry liquid, helping save approximately 20 plastic bottles each week, the equivalent of around 500 plastic bags.

No plastic: 100% recyclable, cardboard point of sale

When you’re next in the supermarket keep an eye out for how our products are stored. Often when we’re doing an activation or off location promotional activities, we use what we call ‘tower bins’. Previously, these bins contained plastic, metal and tape but over the years we have converted them to 100% recyclable cardboard. By doing so we will be able to save 220km of plastic tape, the equivalent distance from Sydney to Goulburn. We will also save 5,600kg of plastic – the same weight as 6 cars and we have also removed 3,100kg of metal!

Partnering for progress and encouraging consumers to bin better

Unilever’s range of PCR bottles with text “Buy us at Coles to make a 10c donation to Clean Up Australia”

In Australia, we work closely with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and other businesses to action Australia’s 2025 National Packaging Targets. We've also joined more than 60 businesses, NGOs, and governments in the ANZPAC Plastics Pact network to work towards our shared vision of a circular economy for plastic, where plastic never becomes waste or pollution.

We know cutting our plastic waste is only part of our responsibility. We also have a role to play in helping consumers know what is recyclable and how to recycle effectively. In 2018, we were a founding signatory of the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) which helps Australians correctly dispose of their packaging. We’ve also been working with Planet Ark since 2018 to support National Recycling Week, raise awareness of the ARL and increase recycling rates.

Our retail partners are also on board. To encourage Australians to step up to recycling and help close the loop by choosing recycled plastic, we’ve partnered with Coles and Clean Up Australia since 2020 to run an annual national campaign. Each year, for the duration of the campaign, we donate 10c to Clean Up Australia for every bottle of our recycled range purchased at Coles. In 2021, the campaign resulted in Australians purchasing over one million bottles made from recycled plastic instead of virgin plastic.

As a result of our ongoing commitment to plastics, Unilever Australia was named one of the highest performing "Large Pharmacy & Personal Care" companies for three years running at APCO’s award ceremony.

Helping to collect and process more plastic than we sell

Wrappers of Streets ice creams with text “Please recycle our wrappers at your nearest REDCycle”

Soft plastics – such as ice cream wrappers or bread bags - are different. They can't be disposed of at home. We’ve partnered with REDCycle in Australia and the NZ Soft Plastic Scheme to help improve recycling rates of these tricky soft plastics.

There are over 1,800 REDcycle drop off points in Coles and Woolworths stores around Australia where you can drop off your soft plastics so that they can be processed into new products such as outdoor furniture for schools and signage.

It takes a bit more effort but it's more than worth it. In 2020, REDcycle recovered, recycled and diverted 4,231 tonnes of soft plastic from landfill, while NZ Soft Plastic Scheme saved 160 tonnes. That's equivalent to over 1,000 elephants!

Flat lay of food

Tackling food waste

People hate to see food wasted, especially when times are hard. And so do we.

As one of the world’s biggest food producers, it’s our ambition to protect and preserve food for everyone across our value chain – starting in our own operations.

We're tackling food waste, both in our supply chain, and by helping consumers reduce the amount of food they throw away. This doesn’t just make good business sense, it’s also good for environment and for society.

Learn more about our global strategy and goals here and check out the progress we’ve made in Australia and New Zealand below.

Waste-free manufacturing

Each year, we rescue around 300 tonnes of ice cream during the production process. What do we mean by ‘rescue’? Well, throughout the process of making ice cream, we accumulate ‘leftovers’ of ice cream mix. Previously, the majority of this leftover ice cream was thrown out. But our innovative team came up with a way to rescue this perfectly good leftover mix by blending it with other ingredients to create an equally delicious flavour!

For ice cream that cannot be rescued, we either send it to a piggery as stock feed or to an anaerobic digestion facility where it is converted into renewable energy and nutrient-rich fertiliser. By doing so, we save over 3,000 tonnes of ice cream waste from going to landfill every year.

Fighting hunger with Foodbank

Foodbank volunteers receiving Unilever donation in the factory

Since 2013, we have donated 4,385,837 kgs of food and groceries to Foodbank Australia, equating to 7.9 million meals for people in need.

During 2020 in response to the Covid-19 crisis, we donated $2 million worth of essential homecare, personal care and food products to Foodbank Australia and Foodbank Aotearoa, including leading household brands Lifebuoy, Comfort, Sunsilk, Love Beauty and Planet, Simple and Continental.

Overall, our partnership with Foodbank helped save 92.7 million kilograms of CO2 emissions in 2020.

Leveraging technology to tackle food waste

Yume and UFS logos on top of image of food

Since 2018, we've also been working with Yume Food - a social enterprise that develops tech solutions to help us sell our surplus products to other businesses and help us facilitate donations to our preferred Food Rescue Organisations.

We've prevented 40,000 kilograms of surplus food from going to waste - this is equivalent to 79,526 kilograms of CO2 prevented from being released into the atmosphere, and 7.7m litres of water from going to waste.