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Unilever to halve virgin plastic use by 2025

Unilever CEO Alan Jope has announced company plans to halve the use of virgin plastic by 2025 and increase the use of recycled plastic as part of its new commitments to a circular economy.

The FMCG giant aims to collect and process around 600,000 tonnes of plastic annually by 2025, and its brands, including Dove, Ben & Jerry’s, Lipton and Omo, will reduce the use of plastic packaging.

“Plastic has its place, but that place is not in the environment. We can only eliminate plastic waste by acting fast and taking radical action at all points in the plastic cycle,” Jope said.

“Our starting point has to be design, reducing the amount of plastic we use, and then making sure that what we do use increasingly comes from recycled sources. We are also committed to ensuring all our plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable.”

Jope said the business needs a “fundamental rethink” in its approach to packaging and products, with investment and partnerships to improve waste management infrastructure.

“It requires us to introduce new and innovative packaging materials and scale up new business models, like re-use and re-fill 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.”

Unilever is on track to achieve its existing commitments to ensure all of its plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, and to use at least 25 per cent recycled plastic in its packaging.

“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 plastics,” Ellen MacArthur, founder, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said.

Unilever has introduced innovations including shampoo bars, refillable toothpaste tablets, cardboard deodorant sticks and bamboo toothbrushes. It has also signed up to the Loop platform, to explore new ways of delivering and collecting reusable products.

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