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article imageConsumer giant Unilever vows to slash use of virgin plastic

By Karen Graham     Oct 7, 2019 in Environment
British-Dutch transnational consumer goods company Unilever says it plans to halve the amount of new plastic it uses in a bid to appeal to younger shoppers. The firm is responsible for producing 700,000 tons of new plastic a year.
Unilever is the world's largest consumer goods company, selling products in about 190 countries. And depending on where you live on the planet, you will be familiar with products like Dove, Ben & Jerry’s, Lipton or Surf, and PG Tips.
In April 2018, Unilever announced it was partnering with start-up company Ioniqa and Indorama Ventures to develop technology capable of converting PET plastic waste into virgin-grade materials available for use in food packaging.
This was part of its promise to have all of its plastic packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, and also included a vow to use at least 25 percent recycled plastic in packaging by that year.
CEO Alan Jope said that the plan to slash the use of the so-called virgin plastics will require a "fundamental rethink" in its packaging policies. The company plans on using more recycled plastic - as well as finding other alternative materials, according to CTV NewsCanada.
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Unilever
This is not to say that Jope hates plastics. Actually, Jope holds that plastic is a "terrific material," per the BBC. He says many of the materials that are supposed to be alternatives to plastic are worse, saying: "A hysterical move to glass may be trendy but it would have a dreadful impact on the carbon footprint of packaging."
“The way that we’ll reduce the virgin plastic in half is by, first, an absolute reduction in the amount of plastic that we use, and that’s going to require our best innovative capability to come up with different packaging formats,” Jope told CNBC’s Julianna Tatelbaum.
Hard road ahead
It's not like Unilever can just start with its new plan and overnight - everything will be different. It is going to take more than just one company vowing to cut the use of plastic, says Jope. The biggest issue is what to do with plastic waste.
One of Unilever's most famous brands is Ben & Jerry's ice cream
One of Unilever's most famous brands is Ben & Jerry's ice cream
SAUL LOEB, AFP/File
And we know that plastic recycling has not yet caught on around the globe. The European Commission has said that Europeans produce 25 million tons of plastic waste annually, with less than 30 percent “collected for recycling.”
Canada produces about 3.3 million metric tons of plastic waste a year. With only 9 percent of this waste being recycled into useful products, that means that about 2.8 million metric tons are being thrown away as garbage into the landfills.
And in the United States, the numbers are even worse. Only 9 percent of all plastic ever discarded in the U.S. since 1950 has been recycled while another 12 percent has been incinerated.
It is going to take more than just the industry to effect a reduction in plastic waste, says Jope. Manufacturers and the plastic recycling sector are going to have to do their part.
More about Unilever, 100000 tons, Plastic, virgin plastic, Sustainability
 
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