Unilever develops new technology to tackle the global issue of plastic sachet waste
London/Rotterdam, May 11, 2017 – Unilever today unveiled its ground-breaking new technology to recycle sachet waste. This technology, called CreaSolv® Process, has been developed with the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Germany and is inspired by an innovation used to recycle TV sets.
- Hundreds of billions of plastic sachets are thrown away globally every year.
- Unilever has developed ground-breaking new technology to recycle sachets.
- Circular economy in action: sachets will be turned into plastic and channelled back into the supply chain.
- Today, only 14% of all plastic packaging is recycled globally.
- Unilever has pledged to make 100% of packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.
Billions of single-use sachets are sold every year, particularly in developing and emerging markets. Sachets are extremely resource efficient and allow low-income consumers to buy small amounts of products that would otherwise be unaffordable to them. But without a viable recycling solution, sachet packaging ends up in landfill or as litter. As part of its Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever has long been committed to finding an alternative to throwing sachets away.
CreaSolv® Process technology has been adapted from a method used to separate brominated flame retardants from waste electrical and electronic equipment polymers. During the process, the plastic is recovered from the sachet, and the plastic then used to create new sachets for Unilever products – creating a full circular economy approach.
Commenting, David Blanchard, Chief R&D Officer said:
“Billions of sachets are used once and just thrown away, all over the world, ending up in landfill or in our waterways and oceans. At the start of this year we made a commitment to help solve this problem, developing new recycling technologies. We intend to make this tech open source and would hope to scale the technology with industry partners, so others – including our competitors – can use it.
“There is a clear economic case for delivering this. We know that globally $80-120bn is lost to the economy through failing to properly recycle plastics each year. Finding a solution represents a huge opportunity. We believe that our commitment to making 100% of our packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable will support the long-term growth of our business.”
Unilever will open a pilot plant in Indonesia later this year to test the long-term commercial viability of the technology. Indonesia, is a critical country in which to tackle waste, producing 64m tonnes every year, with 1.3m tonnes ending up in the ocean.
To tackle the industry-wide sachet waste issue, Unilever is looking to create a sustainable system change by setting up waste collection schemes to channel the sachets to be recycled. Currently Unilever 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.
This announcement is part of Unilever’s pledge to ensure all of its plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Unilever had already committed to reducing the weight of its packaging by one-third by 2020 and increasing the use of recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25% by 2025.
Dr. Andreas Mäurer, Department Head of Plastic Recycling at the Fraunhofer IVV said:
“With this innovative pilot plant we can, for the first time ever, recycle high-value polymers from dirty, post-consumer, multi-layer sachets. Our aim is to prove the economic profitability and environmental benefits of the CreaSolv® Process. Our calculations indicate that we are able to recover six kilos of pure polymers with the same energy effort as the production of one kilo of virgin polymer.”
While this new technology represents a major step forward, plastic waste is a multi-faceted challenge that will require continued innovation in technology, design, delivery models and materials to create a full circular economy for plastics. Unilever will continue its work with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative and continue looking for additional solutions.
About the Fraunhofer Institute
The Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV develops high-quality food products and safe, effective, and convenient packaging. We put priority on the efficient use of raw materials and the minimization of any environmental impact. With the development of polymer recycling processes the Fraunhofer IVV recovers high-purity materials from complex mixtures of waste materials, e.g. from packaging, building waste as well as end-of-life vehicles and waste electrical and electronic equipment. In addition to the food and packaging industries, other sectors such as the chemical industry, the pharmaceutical and cosmetics sectors, and the agricultural industry benefit from the expertise and technologies. For more information about Fraunhofer IVV please visit www.ivv.fraunhofer.de
CreaSolv® is a registered trademark of CreaCycle GmbH.
This announcement may contain forward-looking statements, including ‘forward-looking statements’ within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as ‘will’, ‘aim’, ‘expects’, ‘anticipates’, ‘intends’, ‘looks’, ‘believes’, ‘vision’, or the negative of these terms and other similar expressions of future performance or results, and their negatives, are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon current expectations and assumptions regarding anticipated developments and other factors affecting the Unilever Group (the “Group”). They are not historical facts, nor are they guarantees of future performance.
Because these forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, there are important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Among other risks and uncertainties, the material or principal factors which could cause actual results to differ materially are: Unilever’s global brands not meeting consumer preferences; Unilever’s ability to innovate and remain competitive; Unilever’s investment choices in its portfolio management; inability to find sustainable solutions to support long-term growth; customer relationships; the recruitment and retention of talented employees; disruptions in our supply chain; the cost of raw materials and commodities; the production of safe and high quality products; secure and reliable IT infrastructure; successful execution of acquisitions, divestitures and business transformation projects; economic and political risks and natural disasters; the effect of climate change on Unilever’s business; financial risks; failure to meet high and ethical standards; and managing regulatory, tax and legal matters. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this announcement. Except as required by any applicable law or regulation, the Group expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Group’s expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based. Further details of potential risks and uncertainties affecting the Group are described in the Group’s filings with the London Stock Exchange, Euronext Amsterdam and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, including in the Annual Report on Form 20-F 2016 and the Unilever Annual Report and Accounts 2016.