Unilever unveiled the CreaSolv process to recycle sachets that is inspired by an innovation used to recycle TV sets.
Developed with the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Germany, the 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.
“Billions of sachets are used once and just thrown away, all over the world, ending up in landfill or in our waterways and oceans,” said David Blanchard, chief R&D officer.
“There is a clear economic case for delivering this. We know that globally US$80-120 billion is lost to the economy through failing to properly recycle plastics each year.”
“We believe that our commitment to making 100% of our packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable will support the long-term growth of our business.”
“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.”
Unilever will open a pilot plant in Indonesia later this year to test the long-term commercial viability of the technology.
The country reportedly produces 64 million tons every year, with 1.3 million tons 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.
The company 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.