Waste & packaging
The growing challenge of plastic in the environment means it is more urgent than ever to find solutions to reduce, reuse, recycle and recover ‘post-consumer’ plastic waste.
Plastic has become an integral part of our lives. It protects products and makes them easy to dispense or reseal after use. But with that has emerged the enormous – and growing – problem of plastic waste. It is littering our environment, polluting our seas and killing aquatic life.
The challenge is that so little plastic packaging is currently recycled, recyclable or reusable. The result is a significant economic loss for society and business. It is for these reasons that we have singled out plastic packaging as a principal risk for our business in 2018 in our Annual Report & Accounts. Urgent action is needed on multiple fronts. As a consumer goods company, we’re acutely aware of the causes and consequences of the linear “take-make-dispose” model. And we want to change it.
From a purely business perspective, discarding plastic makes zero sense. Plastic packaging waste represents an $80-$120 billion loss to the global economy every year according to the World Economic Forum. A more circular approach is needed, where we not only use less packaging, but design the packaging we do use so it can be reused, recycled or composted.
In a circular economy, materials are regenerated and constantly flow around a ‘closed loop’ system, rather than being used a few times and then discarded. It means that the value of materials, including plastics, is not lost by being thrown away. A more circular use of materials means lower costs and less waste. It means new sources of value for our customers and consumers, better risk management of raw materials, and improved approaches to the supply chain.
The Waste & Packaging pillar of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan contributes primarily to two of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Responsible Consumption & Production (SDG 12) and Life Below Water (SDG 14). And moving away from this linear model of consumption is key.