Unilever to boost recycled plastic in packaging

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Unilever Australia & New Zealand will introduce Australian-sourced post-consumer recycled plastic for bottles of its home and personal-care brands.

According to the company, at least 25 per cent recycled plastic will be used in bottles for OMO, Dove, Surf, Sunsilk, TRESemmé and other key brands. Unilever has added that it will go further “wherever technically possible”. This will create an end-market and new life for about 750 tonnes of recycled plastic per year.

Unilever says it will become the first major consumer-goods company in Australia to source high volumes of locally recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic across home and personal-care brands. HDPE is a more rigid plastic type, commonly used in plastic bottles for home cleaning and personal-care products.

In 2017, Unilever committed globally to designing all its plastic packaging to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. It also pledged to use at least 25 per cent recycled plastic packaging by 2025.

“While we’re making good progress on our packaging targets in Australia and New Zealand, and this represents a significant step forward, there is more work to do with availability as well as economic and technical feasibility still major barriers in using recycled plastic content across our packaging,” Unilever Australia & New Zealand CEO Clive Stiff said. “We also need to continue our work to reduce the amount of packaging we use, while balancing this with delivering the quality of products our consumers expect.

“As a consumer-goods company, we’re acutely aware of the consequences of a linear take-make-dispose model and we want to change it. We’re proud to be taking this step forward, but no business can create a circular economy in isolation.

“Creating a local market and demand for all types of recycled plastic is critical and heavy lifting is needed from all players involved – suppliers, packaging converters, brand owners, policy makers and retailers, collectors, sorters and recyclers. We need a complete shift in how we think about and use resources.”

Unilever will begin piloting and testing the new recycled plastic bottles over the coming months. It aims to have the new bottles on shelf as early as possible in 2019.