Unilever promises to cut plastic use in half by 2025

The consumer products giant says it will "fundamentally rethink its approach to packaging."

The young people have spoken, and Unilever has listened. The huge corporation, which owns more than 400 food, personal care, and cleaning brands, has pledged to reduce the amount of plastic packaging it uses by half, in an effort to "remain relevant" to younger consumers who care deeply about this issue.

The BBC quoted the company's CEO Alan Jope, who said that Millennials and Gen Z'ers care about "purpose and sustainability... [and] the conduct of the companies and the brands that they're buying." While Jope himself thinks that plastic is a "terrific material" and there is "no paradox" between sustainable business practices and financial growth, he understands that the company has to rethink its packaging in order to appeal to younger and future shoppers.

Hellman's mayonnaise

Currently, Unilever generates 700,000 tons of plastic per year. Its new pledge will see that number reduced by half by 2025. The Guardian reports,


"To get there it will cut its absolute usage by 100,000 tonnes – by switching to selling reusable packs, concentrated refills and using alternative materials, including recycled plastics in its containers – and start collecting more packaging than it uses to help create a circular economy for recycled plastic."

Already, Unilever has introduced concentrated refills (so that a spray bottle can be reused) and wrapper-less multipacks. Jope says the company will be "fundamentally rethinking its approach to packaging... introducing new and innovative packaging materials and scaling up new business models, like reuse and refill formats."

I hope some of that research goes into developing waterless formulas, which are an incredibly simple solution to plastic packaging waste. Much of what gets shipped around the world in the form of products is water, and yet this is precisely what already have in our homes. All we need is the additive required to make the product, in the form of a dry tablet or bar.

Unilever is also part of the Loop pilot project, which offers conventional products in refillable, reusable containers.

Katherine Martinko, 8 October 2019 on treehugger.com