Unilever North America Accelerates Action On Recycled Plastic Packaging
At the Walmart Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting, Unilever North America President Amanda Sourry announced plans to accelerate and expand the company’s plastics commitments in North America. The three-part plan provides better choices for plastic packaging, adds clear recycling instructions on pack, and launches a shopper education program in partnership with Walmart.
“We know that the response from the consumer goods industry is critical in determining the speed that positive change takes place around plastic packaging, and using less, better, or no plastics is a priority at Unilever,” said Sourry. “Today, we are significantly accelerating our plastic packaging commitments in North America and are thrilled to be working alongside other industry leaders like Walmart to push these initiatives forward.”
Globally, Unilever has made ambitious, industry-leading plastic packaging goals, and these will be accelerated in North America with three significant packaging initiatives.
The Unilever North America announcements include:
1. Reaching 50 percent recycled content in plastic packaging this year: By the end of 2019, 50 percent of the plastic used in Unilever North America packaging will come from post-consumer recycled (PCR) content. This move gives consumers a better choice for plastic packaging. It reduces virgin plastic in packaging, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and creates an end-market for recycled packaging in North America.
2. Adding How2Recycle labels on all packaging by 2021: Recognizing the widespread confusion about the complex recycling system, Unilever North America will add clear recycling instructions to packaging for its entire mass-market portfolio by the end of 2021. Unilever has been working with How2Recycle to add clear recycling labels and will now standardize its use on all packaging in North America.
3. Partnering with Walmart on “Bring it to the Bin” shopper education program: Unilever and Walmart are working in partnership to create in-store and online consumer education moments around recycling. The program will incentivize and educate customers about recycling all packaging, including products used in the bathroom, when it launches later this year.
“These Unilever initiatives are important steps, but we can’t create a circular economy for plastic packaging in isolation,” added Sourry. “We need collective action to tackle the problem at the source by working with forward-thinking companies like Walmart, advocating for systemic change in government and recycling facilities, working closely with plastics suppliers, and educating consumers. Only together will we answer the urgent call made by the plastics issue we are facing.”
Unilever has been committed to reducing its packaging footprint for many years as part of the global Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, and committed to making all Unilever packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Globally, the company will reach an average of 25 percent recycled content in packaging by 2025.
Significant progress is being made toward Unilever’s goals at a global level, with achievements including:
• Light-weighting packaging with a 18 percent decrease in weight since 2010, which ultimately means less plastic used to package products;
• Reduction in total waste footprint per consumer by 31 percent since 2010;
• Keeping packaging volumes flat since 2010 despite portfolio growth, demonstrating efforts to decouple growth from environmental impact.
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