- Major consumer goods manufacturer Unilever has pledged to make all of its plastic packaging "fully reusable, recyclable or compostable" by 2025 in a renewed circular economy push, as reported by BusinessGreen.
- This was part of an announcement that Unilever had renewed its membership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for three more years and endorsed their "New Plastics Economy" initiative.
- Unilever will also increase its investment in plastics research. Main areas of focus include publishing a full list of the material used in its packaging by 2020 and working on recycling solutions for multi-layered flexible pouches that will be shared with the industry.
This is the latest in a series of packaging goals from Unilever that fit into the circular economy ideas promoted by the MacArthur Foundation and others. The company previously pledged to reduce its packaging weight one-third by 2020 and use at least 25% recycled plastic content in this packaging by 2025. Past sustainability efforts have also focused on using renewable energy and sending "zero" non-hazardous waste from manufacturing to landfills.
The Unilever announcement also comes as the MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum announced a collaboration with dozens of other groups to increase the amount of plastic packaging that is recovered for recycling worldwide from 14% to 70%. Spurred by the growing ocean plastic problem, as well as the potential for recycling efficiencies, many other companies and organizations have also announced their own circular economy projects.
While many are encouraged by this growing interest from brands and manufacturers recyclers will still be dealing with large quantities of challenging packaging in the meantime. The conversation about whether brands should design for recycling or recyclers should adapt to products as they come on the market is ongoing, particularly around flexible packaging, and looks to be a big part of 2017.