Plastics are a problem. Here’s a staggering fact that should put things into perspective for you – there are more microscopic pieces of plastic littered around our planet than there are stars in our massive Milky Way galaxy. That’s more than 150 billion plastic micro-pieces bobbing around in our beautiful blue oceans and blowing around our cities. At Unilever, we take these statistics seriously, which is why we’ve decided to rethink our plastic packaging and move towards a more circular economy.
So, first things first – what exactly is a circular economy? In a nutshell, it’s a way for us to use materials like plastics and other recyclable resources in a much more effective and sustainable way. A circular economy is both restorative and regenerative by nature. This means that instead of falling into a ‘use once and throw away’ pattern, the materials we use constantly flow around a closed-loop system that ensures their value is not simply lost by being thrown away.
The question is – how did we end up here? The answer is the mass production of cheap, flexible and multipurpose plastics, and the ‘use and forget’ mindset associated with them. What we mean by this is that plastic products get created, supplied, bought, used once or twice and then thrown away by consumers. This common practice has had devastating effects on the environment.
Worldwide, only 14% of plastic packaging makes its way to recycling plants. A third of all plastic packaging is left in fragile ecosystems and 40% end up in landfills. On top of this, every minute one rubbish truck worth of plastic makes its way from rivers, streams and other flowing water systems into the ocean. What does this mean for our planet’s marine life? It means that an estimated 100 million marine animals die each year due to discarded plastic. Experts predict that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. It’s time to make a change. It’s time to be the change. It’s time to lead the way to a better tomorrow.
PCR is sustainable plastic material that has been recycled, which means they have been reprocessed to be re-used in new manufacturing. Unilever has committed to using 25% PCR in our packaging by 2025. We are making good progress through working in partnership with our supplier, government, industry partners & NGOs. 10% of our packaging was already made from PCR by the end of 2017, with plans to accelerate our progress.
We are among a small but growing number of brands, retailers and packaging companies to make plastic packaging commitments. We want to help lead the way towards a circular economy for all our packaging materials – but especially plastic. In January 2017, we committed to ensuring that 100% of our plastic packaging will be designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.