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Keeping our plastic in the loop


We are committing to halve our use of virgin plastic in our packaging, and to collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell by 2025

A photograph of a plastic bag floating through the ocean.

There is a lot of plastic pollution in the environment. And the fact of the matter is – too much of it carries our name.

That is not OK with us.

Plastic is a valuable material. It is crucial for the safe and efficient distribution of our products, and it has a lower carbon footprint than many alternative materials. So, it has its place.

But that place is definitely not littering our streets, rivers and oceans.

It is, however, inside the circular economy – where it is reused, recycled or composted. And where it is kept in a loop, to stop it from ever finding its way into the environment.

If even one of our bottles ends up in the environment, that’s one too many. Our plastic is our responsibility.

That’s why, today, we’re announcing new goals, that are even bolder than the ones we’ve been working towards up until now.

We are committing to halve our use of virgin plastic in our packaging, and collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell… all by 2025.

1/2By 2025, reduce the amount of virgin plastic in our packaging by 50%

MoreBy 2025, help collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell

When it comes to virgin plastic, we will deliver this in two ways. Firstly, by removing more than 100,000 tonnes of plastic packaging by accelerating multi-use packs – such as reusable and refillable formats – and ‘no plastic’ solutions, which includes alternative packaging materials and ‘naked’ products. Secondly, by accelerating our use of recycled plastic in our packaging.

The most important step in eliminating plastic waste is preventing it getting into the environment. That’s why we’re also committing to collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell. We’ll do that in three ways: invest and partner to improve waste management infrastructure in many of the countries in which we operate; purchase and use recycled plastics in our packaging; and participate in extended producer responsibility schemes where we pay for the collection of our packaging.

Feature image - Alan Jope, Unilever CEO, 2019

We can only eliminate plastic waste by acting fast and taking radical action at all points in the cycle.

Alan Jope, CEO, Unilever

“We can only eliminate plastic waste by acting fast and taking radical action at all points in the cycle,” says Unilever CEO Alan Jope. “This demands a fundamental rethink in our approach to our packaging and products. It requires us to introduce new and innovative materials, and scale up new business models, like reuse and refill formats, at an unprecedented speed and intensity.”

“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.”

On any given day, around 2.5 billion people, across more than 190 countries, use our products to feel good, look good and get more out of life. This puts us in a unique position to be part of the solution and realise our vision for a waste-free world where no packaging ever enters the environment – on land, in waterways and in our oceans.

Ellen MacArthur, Founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, says: "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 plastic.

“We urge others to follow their lead, so collectively we can eliminate the plastic we don’t need, and also innovate, so what we do need is circulated, and ultimately build an economic system where plastic packaging never becomes waste."

How will we reduce the amount of plastic packaging we use?

Our commitment will strengthen our innovation in new business models, such as reusable and refillable packaging. We will also drive action around no plastic solutions, such as ‘naked’ products. And we will look at reducing the amount of plastic we use in our packs through things like concentration. We will be mindful to avoid innovations or switches that have a worse environmental impact.

Will we shift to reusable and refillable solutions?

Our ambition is to change the way we do business which means shifting from single to multi-use packs by investing in new models, such as reusable containers. We are already learning and making progress with innovations like home refills and in-store dispensing trials. To help make this shift, we also need to work with others on these solutions, engage citizens around the experience and educate them on the benefits of changing the way they buy.

Will we reduce our plastic packaging in every country?

Like our existing commitments, we will embed these goals across our business to ensure our brands, markets and divisions are accountable for progress. And our ‘less, better, no’ framework will guide our solutions. We expect this will show up in different ways for each country, depending on the existing packaging footprint, solutions available and consumer response.

Will we reduce the number of sachets we sell?

Our commitment includes all plastic packaging formats across the business, including sachets. We will continue to explore the positive impact of new business models like reusable or refillable packaging. For instance, our Philippines Hair Refillery and our Love Beauty and Planet Refillery in Vietnam.

Our insights highlight the need for a low-cost model where consumers can control the amount of product they dispense, which in turn manages the cost. In addition, we consider the systems in which our products flow and work with others so the plastics we do need can be collected and recycled. We have committed to help collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell – this includes sachets.

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