Unilever has recently taken another step towards making all its plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable globally by 2025, with the launch of its first 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) – and fully recyclable – bottle in Colombia.
This is also one of the first high-density polyethylene (HDPE) 100% PCR bottles for the company’s Dirt is Good brand globally.
In line with its target to increase the recycled plastic material content in our packaging to 25% by 2025, this initiative will act as a catalyst to increase recycling rates in our Colombian portfolio.
The company is migrating all packaging for its FAB laundry brand’s liquid detergent portfolio to 100% PCR plastic. In doing so, it will use approximately 6.5 tonnes of recycled plastic per month, which equates to a reduction of more than 78 tonnes of virgin plastic per year. That’s equivalent to the weight of about 12 fully-grown African elephants.
But this isn’t just about Unilever changing how we make the bottles.
In Colombia, consumers don’t typically recycle. This is down to a lack of awareness, but mainly because the infrastructure for collection and processing isn’t yet widespread or co-ordinated.
That said, there is an appetite to cut plastic waste. For example, in the first year after the government introduced legislation on the use of plastic bags by retailers, over 70% of consumers reduced their consumption.
To overcome the inherent challenges and, at the same time, embrace this consumer desire, the company helped establish a supply of PCR by partnering with specialist recycling company Biocirculo.
Waste plastic is collected and stockpiled by more than 80 recyclers in Bogotá, who then take it to Biocirculo’s central sorting facility where it is cleaned and processed, ready for it to be made into our new FAB bottles.
Unilever’s partnership with Biocirculo guarantees access to enough PCR plastic, so that – from now on – all bottles in its FAB liquids range can be made with 100% recycled plastic. This isn’t just for a specific period or a limited-edition run.
Creating a circular economy
Launching this new FAB bottle is the first step the company is taking towards creating a true circular economy for plastic packaging in Colombia.
It mirrors similar initiatives Unilever is running elsewhere in the world. In Brazil, for example, the company is working to increase the demand for recycled plastic which will, in turn, increase recycling rates.
As Manuel Madero, VP of Marketing for our Home Care division in the Middle Americas region, says: “We understand that the consumer goods industry has an important role to play in developing solutions to the plastic waste problem, but we can’t do it alone and we can’t do it in isolation.”
“It requires consumers, government, waste management companies and packaging suppliers to act together. Importantly, it is essential to increase recycling rates in homes for this model to be sustainable.”
As part of the FAB bottle launch, Unilever is running ads – on TV, online and in-store – to raise awareness of the importance of consumers sorting their waste at home, particularly plastic.
It also want to influence other companies and industries – the players who are key to building a circular economy – to reinforce this message and work together to mitigate the problem.
The company is working towards a more sustainable packaging solution for the rest of the FAB portfolio in Colombia, and it will launch PCR packaging in Ecuador and Central America next year with its Dirt is Good brands.
It is also designing and developing packaging that is recyclable and made from recycled content for other Unilever brands in Colombia.