The Anglo-Dutch company, which now uses around 700,000 tonnes of plastic packaging annually, plans to halve this figure by reducing its absolute plastic usage by 100,000 tonnes, investing in refillable packaging and alternative packaging materials.
Virgin Plastic, is produced directly from the petrochemical feed-stock, like natural gas or crude oil, which has never been used or processed before.
"We believe we've got to reduce the amount of plastic packaging we use", says Matt Demorais, who leads Unilever's policy and advocacy engagement on sustainable packaging.
At present, Unilever's plastic packaging footprint is around 7,00,000 tonnes annually.
This takes Unilever's current commitment to ensure all its plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 one step further.
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Alan Jope said that Unilever will halve the amount of "new plastic" it uses in a bid to appeal to millennials and Generation Z, but warned against "trendy" alternatives to plastics such as glass. Unilever will also purchase more recycled plastics for use in its own packaging, and it will participate in programs where it directly pays for the collection of its own discarded packaging. In collaboration with global partners, along with the UN Development Programme, Unilever has driven more effective recycling infrastructure in India. It will also drive action around no plastic solutions, including "naked" products. "This is a daunting but exciting task which will help drive global demand for recycled plastic".
Unilever introduced its "Less, Better, No" plastic framework in 2017, to transform its approach towards plastic packaging. It has also introduced detectable pigment in its black plastics for brands including Aex and TRESemme.
Through Less Plastic Unilever has explored new ways of packaging and delivering products - including concentrates, such as its new Cif Eco-refill which eliminates 75% of plastic, and new refill stations for shampoo and laundry detergent rolled out across shops, universities and mobile vending in South East Asia.
Britain's second-biggest supermarket chain Sainsbury's promised to halve its plastic packaging by 2025 last month, while rival Tesco said it would ban brands that use excessive packaging from its stores next year.
The company is also bringing new products to market to design out the use of plastics. In the Philippines, for example, it tested "The Hair Refillery", a pilot in shopping malls in Manila that lets consumers use their own bottles to refill shampoo and conditioner from brands like Dove and Tresemmé; because consumers there are price-conscious, the system was created to let them refill exactly as much as they wanted to and to pay by weight. Plastics are expected to outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050. To manage the waste mountain the company will invest in or form partnerships in the waste-handling industry and has already collaborated on a number of projects, including in Indonesia where it has helped establish close to 3,000 waste banks.