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Seventh Generation’s ‘zero plastic’ laundry tablets, packaged in a stainless-steel canister.

“Why don’t you just stop using plastic altogether?”

We’re completely rethinking the role of plastic in our business. And this is one of the questions we’re asked most frequently. Here’s our response.

We’ve pledged to halve our use of virgin plastic by 2025 – partly by eliminating over 100,000 tonnes of plastic from our packaging – and to design all our packaging to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable.

We’re making good progress towards these targets, but we’re increasingly asked why we don’t just stop using plastic altogether. And there are good reasons why not.

Plastic has a place in the economy and in business, as it’s crucial for the safe and efficient distribution of products. It also often has the lowest carbon footprint compared to other materials.

Our approach to products and packaging is changing

Science tells us that most of the solutions we need already exist today, but we must fix the broken plastic system to protect our ocean and marine ecosystems. We need new ways for consumers to easily access everyday products with less plastic waste as a result. We want to keep plastic in a circular loop system by collecting, processing and repeatedly reusing it.

So we’re rethinking how we design products, developing whole new business models and offering different shopping experiences for our consumers. This includes looking at alternative options to plastic – such as metal, paper and glass – provided these don’t create an environmental problem elsewhere. Plastic-free packaging innovations are another solution, these include bamboo toothbrushes from Signal and recyclable glass soup bottles from Knorr.

We’re using reuse-refill solutions to cut out new plastic completely too. In Chile, we have partnered with social enterprise Algramo to deliver a refill model directly to consumers at home. In the UK, we launched our biggest refill trial to date in Europe, in partnership with retailer Asda and sustainability experts Beauty Kitchen.

Of course, the more others come on board (businesses and governments especially) and work to tackle this together, the bigger the impact we can have.

Pulpex paper bottles

We have developed a prototype for the first-ever paper-based laundry detergent bottle, set to debut in Brazil this year under our OMO laundry brand (also known as Persil, Skip and Breeze). This groundbreaking technology has been developed in partnership with the Pulpex consortium, a collaboration between Unilever, Diageo, Pilot Lite and other industry members.

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Alberto Balsam

Alberto Balsam, the UK’s No.1 shampoo and conditioner brand by volume, launched a shampoo bar that’s 100% plastic-free and comes in packaging made from 100% recyclable, FSC-certified cardboard. While the bars are the brand’s biggest innovation in ten years, its original shampoo and conditioner bottles are already 100% recyclable and, since June 2021, all its bottles are now made from 50% post-consumer recycled (PCR) content.

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Carte D’Or Europe

In 2019, we relaunched our Carte D’Or ice cream in compostable paper tubs. The raw material comes from traceable and sustainable sources, and the container has a biodegradable barrier coating. After use, it can be either recycled or sent for industrial composting. The brand sells 11 million tubs every year, which means the compostable tub could save 520 tonnes of plastic.

Seventh Generation

Seventh Generation has a revolutionary line of cleaning solutions for kitchen, bathroom and laundry. The water-activated, fully biodegradable tablets and powders are packaged in canisters made from steel – the world’s most recycled and recyclable material. What’s more, since no water is added, there’s less water used in manufacturing, shipping and storage.

Our plastic targets

By 2025 we will:

  • Halve the amount of virgin plastic we use in our packaging and achieve an absolute reduction of more than 100,000 tonnes in plastic use
  • Help collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell
  • Ensure that 100% of our plastic packaging is designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • Increase the use of post-consumer recycled plastic in our packaging to at least 25%.

Discover more about how we’re rethinking plastic packaging