Two years ago, we became a founding member of The UK Plastics Pact, an ambitious multi-stakeholder initiative, led by WRAP, which aims to transform the plastic packaging system in the UK and keep plastic in the economy and out of the ocean.
As a founding member, Unilever supported WRAP and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in the development of a series of ambitious 2025 targets, which all members will work towards, these include:
- Eliminating problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (re-use) delivery models.
- 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable.
- 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted.
- 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging.
These ambitious targets support our broader commitment to increase the use of recycled plastic content in our packaging, to halve our use of virgin plastic and to ensure 100% of our packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
You can read the latest UK Plastics Pact Annual Report, which presents 2019 data highlights and member actions, here. The 2019 data shows that whilst there are still some significant challenges in certain areas, UK Plastics Pact members are making some progress against all four targets.
Here’s a few key achievements and progress we’ve made with plastics over the last year.
Magnum became the first ice cream brand to use recycled polypropylene (rPP) plastic in its packaging.
Although there have been recycled plastic material options available for beauty and personal care products for some time, there were previously no solutions approved for use in food-grade packaging. So, we collaborated with SABIC – a global leader in diversified chemicals – to develop one.
The rPP waste can be re-processed infinitely, with a closed-loop recycling method preserving the quality of the material. This food-grade recycled packaging has made Magnum an industry leader, significantly reducing the need for virgin plastic, and paving the way to a circular economy.
By the end of the year, all Magnum Pints tubs in Europe will be produced with rPP, which means over 160,000 kilograms of recycled plastic will be used instead of virgin plastic.
This year Persil has made a number of changes to help achieve our 2025 plastic commitments.
Persil bottles are now 100% recyclable and the dosing ball previously provided with every bottle has been removed. The formula has been concentrated the bottles are now smaller using 40% less packaging and are also now made with 50% post-consumer recycled plastic. As a result, Persil is saving more than 1,000 tonnes of virgin plastic every year.
This year PG Tips, as well as our Irish and Scottish tea brands Lyons and Scottish Blend, have completed the switch to biodegradable tea bags across their full ranges, moving to a biodegradable plant-based material in their tea bags.
PG Tips became the first major tea brand to feature biodegradable tea bags in all retail boxes earlier this year. The plant-based tea bags are derived from corn starch and can be disposed of in a food waste bin to biodegrade back to nature.
Going further, our tea brands are now removing the plastic film from their boxes to make them plastic free. This year, PG tips has already removed the plastic film from their 160 boxes which has saved 5 tonnes of single-use plastic. By the end of 2021, all our tea boxes will be plastic free.
In October we launched our largest refill trial yet in Asda’s new sustainability store in Leeds, testing three different refill formats across seven of our brands - Persil, PG Tips, Radox, Cif, Simple, Pukka and Alberto Balsam. The trial represents a real-world ‘test and learn’ to understand what works best for consumers in a retail environment.
Touch-free refill machines, developed by circular economy experts Beauty Kitchen, dispense Alberto Balsam, Radox, Simple and Persil laundry liquid into reusable aluminium or stainless-steel bottles which shoppers can use again and again. Each of these bottles has a unique QR code which will allow full traceability – so we can track the full buy, use, refill process to help gain better insights into the circular model. Customers can use these QR codes to track the lifecycle of their refillable bottle and see how much plastic and carbon has been saved.
Self-serve containers: Unilever tea brands PG Tips and Pukka will be available through self-serve containers or ‘hoppers’ for loose tea and tongs to self-dispense fully biodegradable teabags. Shoppers will be able to take their own reusable container into store or buy one there.
Cif in-home refills have an entire bay dedicated to the ten times concentrated refill sprays, which allow consumers to use a Cif spray bottle for life, while using 75% less plastic than the standard cleaning bottle.