Unilever injects US$15m into Closed Loop to bolster recycling efforts in North America

US – Consumer Packaged Goods Company Unilever has announced a US$15 million investment into the Closed Loop Leadership Fund to bolster recycling efforts in North America.

The Closed Loop Leadership Fund is a private equity fund focused on acquiring companies across the value chain that are looking to upgrade their recycling infrastructure and create a circular system.

Last year, Swiss food manufacturing giant Nestlé joined the closed loop initiative, investing $30 million in the Fund to enable it scale up its activities.

With its investment, Unilever aims to recycle an estimated 60,000 metric tons of US plastic packaging waste annually by 2025, equivalent to more than half of its plastics footprint in North America.

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“Unilever’s investment in Closed Loop Partners’ Leadership Fund, will help accelerate the shift toward more circular supply chains by scaling best-in-class circular business models and supporting the technological breakthroughs and sustainable innovations,” said Ron Gonen, founder and CEO of Closed Loop Partners.

The investment forms part of Unilever’s commitment to collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells by 2025.

This goal was announced as part of the company’s waste-free world commitments, which also includes halving the use of virgin plastic, ensuring all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable, and using at least 25% recycled plastic in its packaging.

The investment will help secure additional PCR plastic supply for Unilever’s brands and increase its access to recycled plastic feedstock processed by the companies the Fund invests in.

“We believe plastics’ place is inside the circular economy where it is reused, and not in the environment. We’re advocating transforming the recycling system for a waste-free world, and we urgently need business investment to help make it happen,” said Fabian Garcia, president of Unilever North America.

Plastic is very valuable. It helps us get our products to consumers safely and efficiently, says Unilever.

According to the company, the material is often the lowest carbon footprint option compared to other materials.

Despite its convenience, global research has shown the flow of plastic into the ocean each year could triple by 2040.

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Its investment in Closed Loop Fund and commitment to using “Less plastic, Better plastic, No plastic,” is part of its efforts to plastic pollution menace.

Unilever however notes that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought new challenges in tackling plastic pollution.

These include the availability of certain materials, inability to test new materials with suppliers and in Unilever factories, and the closure of sorting and recycling centres in some markets.

 The decreasing price of oil also makes it harder for recycled plastic to compete against lower cost virgin materials too, the company notes.

“Yet we remain as committed as ever to shifting to a circular economy for plastics,” the company said.

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