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Closing The Loop On Plastic

We believe plastic is a valuable material. It is crucial for the safe and efficient distribution of our products, and has a lower carbon footprint than many alternative materials. It has its place, but that place is definitely not littering our streets, rivers and oceans.

We need to keep plastic inside the circular economy – where it is reused, recycled or composted. And where it is kept in a loop, to stop it from ever finding its way into the environment.

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 material in our packaging to at least 25%.

You can read more about the progress we are making globally towards these targets here.

In the UK & Ireland, we’re accelerating our progress on plastics using our five-point plan and framework. 

  1. Less plastic: Cutting down how much we use in the first place
  2. Better plastic: Switching to recycled content, and making sure our products are recyclable
  3. No plastic: Using refill stations to cut out new plastic completely and switching to alternative materials such as paper, glass or aluminium
  4. Supporting Sustainable Behaviours: Supporting and driving sustainable choices and behaviours in-store and at home
  5. Partnering for progress: Collaborating with experts and partners, to accelerate wider progress

Less Plastic

Cif ecorefill being added to reusable spray bottle

A bottle for life with Cif ecorefills

Shoppers can keep their Cif spray bottle and reuse it for life. Our ten times concentrated refill packs use 75% less plastic and attach to current Cif Power & Shine bottles. The ecorefill is 100% recyclable once the plastic sleeves are removed. We’re also increasing the recycled plastic content in the spray bottles too.

Image shows sachet for Colman’s sausage casserole

Paper Sachets for Colman’s

We’re moving all our Colman’s sachets out of plastic and into a new FSC-certified paper material. The new pouches replace existing unrecyclable multi-material laminate sachets with a solution that has just two layers, meaning they can now be recycled in households.

Image shows two comfort bottles lying down next to eachother

Concentrated formulas in smaller bottles

By concentrating our formulas, we can use smaller bottles which use less plastic. Our Comfort Ultimate Care Fabric Softener range now uses an ultra-concentrated formula. As a smaller dose can be used, we’ve concentrated the bottle too which uses 34% less plastic, is made from 100% recycled plastic and is fully recyclable too.

Better Plastic

Image shows five bottles of TRESemme product

Black Plastic

We pioneered the development of a new detectable black pigment for our black plastic bottles and packaging, so they can now be ‘seen’ by recycling plant scanners and sorted for recycling. The new technology means that an additional 2,500 tonnes of plastic bottles could now potentially be sorted and sent for recycling each year in the UK alone.

Image shows three Hellmann’s mayonnaise bottles on top of an animated green hill

Recycled Plastic Bottles

We’re keeping plastic in the loop by making more of our products fully recyclable and using more recycled plastic back into our packaging. Our Dove, Hellmann’s and Comfort bottles are all made with 100% recycled plastic.

Image shows Simple biodegradable wipes

Simple Biodegradable Wipes

All our Simple wipes are now available in a biodegradable material. The new wipes, made using renewable plant fibres and sustainable wood pulp, biodegrade in 42 days under home compost condition - the same as an orange peel!

No Plastic

Image shows Alberto Balsam Shampoo Bars surrounded by opened coconuts, apples and raspberries

Plastic-Free Shampoo Bars

Our Alberto Balsam Shampoo Bars are 100% plastic-free; the packaging is made from recycled material which is 100% recyclable, FSC-certified cardboard and the shampoo bars can last up to 70% longer than a standard shampoo bottle.

Image shows hands holding a Persil aluminium refill bottle pouring out detergent into a plastic lid

Refill Revolution

We’ve launched Unilever’s largest refill trial in Europe here in the UK, and our trial continues to grow. You can now buy Persil, Radox, Alberto Balsam and Simple products in refillable stainless-steel bottles in Asda, Tesco and Co-Op stores across the UK. We’re trialling across three refill formats – machines that dispense liquid products into refillable bottles, pre-filled bottles you can purchase in-aisle and refill-at-home products.

Supporting sustainable behaviours

Image shows a poster of Unilever brands and their recycle week campaigns

We’re committed to helping our shoppers and employees to do the right thing, supporting a better understanding of the complex plastic landscape and helping people to reduce waste and recycle more often.

As a member of the On-Pack Recycling Label (ORPL) scheme, we’re adding OPRL’s recycling labels across as many of our products as possible, providing recycling guidance which is simple, clear and consistent.

Our brands are also helping shoppers to make more sustainable choices with on-pack messaging and campaigns which encourage shoppers to recycle more and waste less.

Every year our brands support WRAP’s #RecycleWeek campaign, sharing the recyclability of our products and encouraging people to recycle them.

We also recently partnered with The Economist’s Education Foundation to create a Plastics, Packaging and Sustainability resource for young people and students. The free workbook is all about plastics and packaging to encourage young people between the ages of 9-14 to think about: why we use plastic, the role plastic does have in our society and what more could and should be done to keep plastic out of the environment.

 Image shows pages of Unilever’s Plastics, Packaging and Sustainability resource

Partnering for progress

For some of the barriers to better recycling and packaging innovation there are no easy fixes and sustainable solutions depend on many elements working together.

We believe that partnerships and collaboration across the full value chain – from the supplier and manufacturer, through to the shopper and waste management companies – is needed to tackle the biggest challenges we face to creating a waste-free world.

That’s why we are a founding member of the UK Plastics Pact which has a vision for an economy where plastics never become waste. It brings together the entire plastics packaging value chain behind this vision – governments, businesses, local authorities, NGOs and consumers – and commits to a set of world-leading targets. These include eliminating problematic or unnecessary single-use packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (reuse) delivery models.

Working in collaboration with partners we’re investing in research to develop the next generation of packaging and plastic recycling, finding ways to deliver the same high-quality products and experience to our consumers whilst eliminating un-necessary plastics and waste. 

planet earth

We were a founding member with four other branded manufacturers in the UK to launch The Flexible Plastic Fund – a new £1 million fund and cross-industry collaboration to drive flexible plastic collection and recycling in the UK, so it can be re-used again and again.

bottle icons

Working with Veolia, Charpak Ltd and HSSMI we’re looking at creating a closed-loop system to recycle 100% clear rigid PET. We are researching the ability to use the non-food contact recycled PET produced in this process in our home and personal care products.

recycling icon

With The University of Liverpool, The University of Manchester and Bright Green Plastics, we’re looking at the technological advancements needed to increase the use of recycled plastic made from High Density Polyethylene – one of the most common plastics used in packaging.