UK – Multinational consumer goods company, Unilever has announced new commitments seeking to halve its use of virgin plastic by 2025 and help create a circular economy for plastics.

The Ben & Jerry’s, Knorr, and Lipton brand owner aims to reduce its absolute use of plastic packaging by more than 100,000 tonnes, accelerate use of recycled plastic and help collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells.

The food and beverage major says that this new commitment makes the company the first major global consumer goods company to commit to an absolute plastics reduction across its portfolio.

Unilever notes that it is already on track to achieve its existing commitments to ensure all of its plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, and to use at least 25% recycled plastic in its packaging within the next six years.

Commenting on the new pledge Alan Jope, Unilever CEO said, “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.

“Our starting point has to be design, reducing the amount of plastic we use, and then making sure that what we do use increasingly comes from recycled sources.

“We are also committed to ensuring all our plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable. This demands a fundamental rethink in our approach to our packaging and products.

“It requires us to introduce new and innovative packaging materials and scale up new business models, like reuse and refill formats, at an unprecedented speed and intensity.”

Since 2017, Unilever says that it has been transforming the company’s approach to plastic packaging through its ‘Less, Better, No’ plastic framework.

Unilever’s plastic packaging footprint today is around 700,000 tonnes annually (including recent acquisitions). The commitment will require the company to help collect and process around 600,000 tonnes of plastic annually by 2025.

To achieve this, Unilever said that it will be investing and partnering to improve waste management infrastructure, purchasing and using recycled plastics in its packaging as well as participating in extended producer responsibility schemes.

Ellen MacArthur, Founder, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: “Today’s announcement by Unilever is a significant step in creating a circular economy for plastic.

“By eliminating unnecessary packaging through innovations such as refill, reuse, and concentrates, while increasing their use of recycled plastic, Unilever is demonstrating how businesses can move away from virgin plastics.”

Over the last five years, Unilever has collaborated with various partners to collect, segregate and recycle plastic packaging in various countries including India, Indonesia and Brazil.