Unilever vows to slash plastic use

Consumer products giant Unilever is pledging to halve its use of non-recycled plastics by 2025, becoming the first global consumer goods company to commit to an absolute plastics reduction across its portfolio, according to the company's announcement.

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The company, whose brands include Dove soaps and Lipton teas, says it aims to achieve the goal by reducing its absolute use of plastic packaging by more than 100,000 metric tons and accelerating its use of recycled plastic.

The company also said Monday it aims to collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells by 2025.

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ULUNILEVER PLC59.81+0.45+0.76%

The move, according to Unilever CEO Alan Jope, will demand a “fundamental rethink” in its packaging policies.

“It requires us to introduce new and innovative packaging materials and scale up new business models, like re-use and re-fill formats, at an unprecedented speed and intensity, “ Jope said in the announcement.

Alan Jope : Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

 “Plastic has its place, but that place is not in the environment. We can only eliminate plastic waste by acting fast and taking radical action at all points in the plastic cycle." 

- Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever

Unilever previously pledged to make all its plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 and to use at least 25 percent recycled plastic in packaging by that year and, according to the company, they are on track to do so.

As it stands today, the Anglo-Dutch firm says it produces some 700,000 metric tons of plastic packaging annually.

However, Unilever has been transforming its packaging through its "Less, Better, No" plastic framework since 2017. In its exploration of packaging, the company introduced innovations to the market such as shampoo bars, refillable toothpaste tablets, cardboard deodorant sticks and bamboo toothbrushes.

Elvira Jimenez, a plastics campaigner with Greenpeace, welcomed the announcement, “in the sense that they are the first ones that are actually acknowledging that there has to be a reduction.” However, she said the environmental organization would like to see Unilever shift its focus even further toward packaging and products that can be reused or refilled.

The move comes at a time where other companies are making the shift toward sustainable and eco-friendly practices. In September, online shopping giant Amazon vowed to reduce the damage to the planet by cutting its use of fossil fuels.

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The company, which ships more than 10 billion items a year on fuel-guzzling planes and trucks, said it has ordered 100,000 electric vans that will start delivering packages to shoppers’ doorsteps in 2021. It also plans to have 100 percent of its energy use come from solar panels and other renewable energy by 2030. That’s up from 40 percent today. Although, Amazon’s employees have pressured the company to do more to combat climate change

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A mere few weeks before the tech giant's announcement, Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain, announced it will eliminate small plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner and bath gel from its hotel rooms worldwide by December 2020 following a similiar announcement last month by IHG, which owns Holiday Inn, Kimpton and other brands. IHG said it will eliminate about 200 million tiny bottles each year by 2021.

A year prior to that, the company Walt Disney Co. said it would replace small plastic shampoo bottles at its resorts and on its cruise ships.

To date, experts say that some 9 million tons (8 million metric tons) of plastic waste, including plastic bottles, bags, toys and other items, flow annually into the world’s oceans.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.