Waste & Packaging

Our waste impact per consumer use has reduced by around 11% since 2010*

Our commitment

Halve the waste associated with the disposal of our products by 2020.*

Our performance

Our waste impact has reduced by around 11% since 2010.*

  • achieved: 2
  • on-plan: 7
  • off-plan: 2
  • %of target achieved: 1

Our perspective

Increasing resource scarcity means it is more urgent than ever to be efficient with packaging and to find solutions to deal with ‘post-consumer waste’ - packaging and products thrown away after use by our consumers. We purchase over 2.4 million tonnes of packaging a year and we are determined to reduce the absolute amount of materials we use and to ensure they are reused or recycled.

We are on track to meet our 2020 commitment. Our total footprint from packaging waste to landfill has reduced by 11%. Efficient pack designs and innovative use of materials, as well as the disposal of sauce brands with large waste footprints, have been the main drivers.

We are deploying new technologies to lightweight packaging and cutting-edge techniques to optimise material use across hundreds of different designs. We are also working with others to stimulate recycling infrastructures, particularly for materials which are important to us but which are more difficult to recycle or recover, such as sachets in developing countries or aluminium aerosol sprays. This can take time but is crucial for the long-term.

Likewise, in our own operations, we are making strong progress against our targets. Our manufacturing teams have already exceeded their 2020 target, reducing waste by 66%† per tonne of production since 2008. In 2012 we set a new target for all our sites to achieve zero non-hazardous waste to landfill by 2015. Three quarters of our sites have now achieved this, an increase of more than 50 sites compared to 2012. Since we launched the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan we have got much better at sharing best practice across sites and regions and this is accelerating progress. For example, in Latin America, we went from eight sites sending zero non-hazardous waste to landfill at the start of 2013, to 33 sites by the end of the year.

Reduce waste from manufacturing

  • By 2020 total waste sent for disposal will be at or below 2008 levels despite significantly higher volumes.

    This represents a reduction of around 40% per tonne of production.

    Versus a 1995 baseline, this represents an 80% reduction per tonne of production and a 70% absolute reduction.

  • By 2015 all manufacturing sites will achieve zero non-hazardous waste to landfill.
  • All newly built factories will aim to generate less than half the waste of those in our 2008 baseline.
  • Approximately 97,000† fewer tonnes of total waste disposed in 2013 than in 2008. This represents a 66%† reduction per tonne of production.

    Compared to 1995, this represents an 89% reduction in absolute terms.

  • 75% (186) of our manufacturing sites achieved zero non-hazardous waste to landfill by end 2013, an increase of more than 50 sites compared to 2012.
  • New factories in India and Turkey started production in 2013. When fully operational each aims to dispose of zero non-hazardous waste to landfill and generate less than half the waste of those factories in a representative 2008 baseline.

† Independently assured by PwC – see http://www.unilever.com/

Reduce packaging

  • By 2020 we will reduce the weight of packaging that we use by one third through:

    • lightweighting materials
    • optimising structural and material design
    • developing concentrated versions of our products
    • eliminating unnecessary packaging.
  • 11% reduction in weight per consumer use in 2013 compared to 2010, achieved through a combination of lightweighting, material design optimisation and compression.

Recycle packaging

  • Working in partnership with industry, governments and NGOs, we aim to increase recycling and recovery rates on average by 5% by 2015 and by 15% by 2020 in our top 14 countries. For some this means doubling or even tripling existing recycling rates.

    We will make it easier for consumers to recycle our packaging by using materials that best fit the end-of-life treatment facilities available in their countries.

  • By 2020 we will increase the recycled material content in our packaging to maximum possible levels. This will act as a catalyst to increase recycling rates.
  • 7% increase in recycling and recovery rates in 2013, over the 2010 average Recycling and Recovery Index (RRI), averaged across our top 14 countries.
  • 3,204 tonnes of post-consumer recycled materials incorporated into our rigid plastic packaging in 2013.


Reuse packaging

  • We will provide consumers with refills in our home and personal care portfolio to make it possible to reuse the primary pack.
  • In 2013 we extended some of our current portfolio and introduced new refills across countries such as China, India, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina and the UK.

Tackle sachet waste

  • Our goal is to develop and implement a sustainable business model for handling our sachet waste streams by 2015.
  • We are continuing to investigate the potential of new technology but progress is slower than the time scale anticipated.

Eliminate PVC

  • We will eliminate PVC (polyvinyl chloride) from all packaging by 2012 (where technical solutions exist).
  • 9999% of PVC removed from our portfolio by end 2012.

Reduce office waste

  • In our top 21 countries, at least 90% of our office waste will be reused, recycled or recovered by 2015 and we will send zero waste to landfill by 2017.
  • By 2015 we will reduce paper consumption by 30% per head in our top 21 countries.
  • We will eliminate paper in our invoicing, goods receipt, purchase order processes, financial reporting and employee expense processing by 2015, where legally allowable and technically possible.
  • 92% of our office waste was reused, recycled or recovered in 2013.
  • In 2013 paper consumed per occupant was 37% lower than 2010.
  • 59% of our in-scope Business and Finance Services processes were completed electronically.

† Independently assured by PwC

* Our environmental targets are expressed on a ‘per consumer use’ basis. This means a single use, portion or serving of a product. We have taken a lifecycle approach with a baseline of 2010.