Consumer goods giant Unilever vows to slash use of plastic

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Consumer products giant Unilever, whose brands include Dove soaps and Lipton teas, said yesterday it aims to halve its use of non-recycled plastics by 2025.

CEO Alan Jope said that the plan to slash use of the so-called virgin plastics will require a “fundamental rethink” in its packaging policies.

The company aims to achieve the goal by reducing its use of all plastics by 100,000 metric tonnes and using more recycled plastic.

Unilever previously pledged to make all its plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 and to use at least 25 per cent recycled plastic in packaging by that year.

The company also said yesterday it aims to collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells by 2025.

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

He said meeting the new targets will require “new and innovative packaging materials” and a rapid increase in packaging that can be reused or refilled.

Unilever has already started selling products including toothbrushes made of bamboo, and cardboard deodorant sticks and refillable toothpaste tablets.

Even so, the Anglo-Dutch company said it produces some 700,000 metric tonnes of plastic packaging annually.

A plastics campaigner with Greenpeace Elvira Jimenez welcomed the announcement, “in the sense that they are the first ones that are actually acknowledging that there has to be a reduction”.

However, she said the environmental organisation would like to see Unilever shift its focus even further toward packaging and products that can be reused or refilled.

Experts say that some nine million tonnes of plastic waste, including plastic bottles, bags, toys and other items, flow annually into the world’s oceans.

File photo shows the logo for Unilever above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. PHOTO: AP