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Unilever's plastic pledge


Consumer goods giant Unilever is to cut down its use of virgin plastic in its range of products. Currently using 635,000 tonnes of plastic a year, the corporation — which owns more than 400 brands — has pledged to halve that figure by 2025. As Fast Company reports: “Unilever will soon begin selling toothpaste that comes in chewable tablets so it avoids the need for hard-to-recycle plastic toothpaste tubes.” Other initiatives — such as skincare product refill stations and refill cartridges for cleaning sprays — have also been trialled. Unilever’s CEO, Alan Jope, said, “Plastic has its place but that place is not in the environment. 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.”

Unilever’s eco-pledge has been given the thumbs up from Greenpeace USA: “What we see as meaningful in the Unilever commitment is that it acknowledges the need for that total reduction of the amount of plastic that companies are producing and selling, and then that the way to get there is through new business models and innovating away from a throwaway culture that currently defines the consumer goods sector,” said the organisation’s global projects leader Graham Forbes. 

Unilever is not alone in its goal to go green. Many other brand names — under growing pressure from consumers — also plan to move to recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging. “We’re just starting to see these sort of multinationals take this issue seriously, and look at how they evolve away from single-use products,” said Forbes. 

However, eco advocates argue the ultimate goal should be moving away from single-use packaging completely. The onus, they say, is on governments to accelerate the pace of change by introducing regulations that encourage reusable packaging. “There’s a long way to go,” said Forbes. “I think when companies put their real investment and attention to it, they’re absolutely going to be able to do it — and that it is absolutely necessary.”

ABOVE Unilever Refillery station in action in The Philippines 

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