News | Published October 07 2019

Unilever to cut down on plastics

Unilever PLC, the corporate entity responsible for brands such as Surf and PG Tips, has announced plans to cut down its use of plastics by half as it seeks to stay relevant to younger consumers.

Other industry giants such as Procter & Gamble, Nestle and Coca-Cola have made similar recycling pledges to adapt to a changing global environment and now Unilever is looking to follow suit.

Unilever produces around 700,000 tonnes of new plastic annually, but is now looking to reduce that usage and recycle as much plastic as it makes by 2025.

The firm, which is the UK's biggest food producer, will look to do this by increasing its use of recycled plastic and alternative materials.

Its CEO Alan Jope believes that plastic is still the go-to packaging material and warned that a “hysterical move” to switch to glass packaging would defeat the point by having a “dreadful impact on the carbon footprint of packaging", despite appearing to be "trendy".

Speaking to the BBC, Jope said that reducing plastic usage and using more recycled material is the way forward.

He also hinted that the majority of millennials and other youngsters are most concerned about the “purpose and sustainability” of packaging as well as the carbon footprint of those companies and brands whose stock they buy.

Addressing Unilever’s plans, Jope said: “This is part of responding to society but also remaining relevant for years to come in the market.

“We profoundly believe that sustainability leads to a better financial top and bottom line”.

Jope also played down the idea that sustainable business and better financial performance were irreconcilable, adding that any change to Unilever’s packaging would not hit the pockets of consumers.

He did warn, however, that responsibility for reducing plastic usage goes beyond the packaging industry, calling on UK councils to standardise recycling policies so that manufacturers may issue clearer recycling instructions to consumers on their packaging.

Jope said: "If there was a standardised approach to collecting, sorting and processing, I think it would allow industry to standardise labelling and make it easier for people to segment their waste”.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
October 07 2019

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