With as much as $120 billion per year lost to the economy through failing to properly recycle plastics, Unilever says there is a clear economic case driving its goal of making 100% of its packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable, and that doing so will support long-term growth of the business. With that in mind, the company has been exploring ways to make more waste recyclable, and today unveiled new technology to recycle sachet waste.
The company, in partnership with Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Germany, has developed new technology called the CreaSolv Process, to recover plastic from used sachets and create new sachets for Unilever products with the recovered material. Unilever says that hundreds of billions of plastic single-use sachets are thrown away globally every year. Later this year, Unilever will open a pilot plant in Indonesia – a critical country in which to tackle waste – to test the long-term commercial viability of the technology.
Creating packaging that is recyclable is only half the challenge: in order to recover and reuse plastic from sachets, Unilever needs a way to collect used sachets, and is therefore working on setting up waste collection schemes to channel the sachets to be recycled. The company is testing this by working with local waste banks, governments and retailers and will look to empower waste pickers, integrate them into the mainstream economy and to provide a potential long term income, generating wider growth in the economy.
The process is said to be able to recover six kilos of pure polymers with the same energy effort as the production of one kilo of virgin polymer.
Personal care and cosmetics companies are increasingly focusing on recyclable and sustainable packaging. In January, Unilever pledged 100% of its plastic packaging will be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. The same month Procter & Gamble, in partnership with recycling and environmental management companies TerraCycle and Suez, developed the world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle made from up to 25 percent recycled beach plastic.
And in March, Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics’ packaging for creams and lotions, the Lush Black Pot, was recognized as the first US Food and Drug Administration rigid packaging application for cosmetics use made from recycled polypropylene (PP).