With a multinational corporation as large as Unilever, the news that they have unveiled ground-breaking technology to recycle sachet waste is an exciting one. Hundreds of billions of plastic sachets are thrown away every year, but Unilever has pledged to make 100 percent of its packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. This new technology called CreaSolv Process has been developed with the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging in Germany. The idea has been inspired by an innovation used to recycle TV sets.
"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."
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.
This announcement is part of Unilever’s ( @UnileverWorld ) 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 percent 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.
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.
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."
Commenting, David Blanchard, Chief R&D Officer for Unilever said: “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… We believe that our commitment to making 100% of our packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable will support the long-term growth of our business.”
For more recycling stories: