Unilever today committed to ensuring that all of its plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 as it called on the entire fast-moving consumer goods industry to accelerate progress towards the circular economy.
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), just 14% of the plastic packaging used globally makes its way to recycling plants, while 40% ends up in landfill and a third in fragile ecosystems. By 2050, it is estimated there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. While architect and circular economy leader William McDonough says the cradle to cradle redesign of packaging is one of the great global design challenges of our time – similar to scaling renewable energy to address climate change.
Treating plastic packaging as a valuable resource to be managed efficiently and effectively is a key priority in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 12 (Sustainable Consumption & Production) and, in doing so, shifting away from a “take-make-dispose” model of consumption to one which is fully circular.
To help transform global plastic packaging material flows, Unilever has committed to:
- Ensure all of its plastic packaging is designed to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025
- Renew its membership of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for another three years and endorse and support their New Plastics Economy initiative. As part of this, it will publish the full “palette” of plastics materials used in its packaging by 2020 to help create a plastics protocol for the industry
- Invest in proving, and then sharing with the industry, a technical solution to recycle multi-layered sachets, particularly for coastal areas which are most at risk of plastics leaking into the ocean.
Unilever has already committed to reduce the weight of the packaging it uses this decade by one third by 2020, and increase its use of recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25% by 2025 against a 2015 baseline, both as part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. In 2015, it achieved its commitment of sending zero non-hazardous waste to landfill across its manufacturing operations.