Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever has put forward a US$15 million investment into the Closed Loop Leadership Fund, which will help recover more than half of its plastic packaging footprint. The firm also says that the investment will mean that by 2025, its North America operations will be collecting more plastic than it sells.
Unilever has invested US$15 million into the Closed Loop Leadership Fund, the private equity fund under New York-based Closed Loop Partners dedicated to bring U.S. companies across the value chain to increase recycling rates and build a circular economy. The investment, made under Unilever’s North America arm, will help the consumer goods giant recycle an estimated 60,000 metric tonnes of plastic packaging waste annually by 2025 – equivalent to more than half of the firm’s plastic footprint in the region.
According to Unilever and Closed Loop Partners, the financing and continued ramping up of post-consumer recycled plastics in its packaging will mean that Unilever North America will collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells by 2025.
We’re advocating to transform the recycling system for a waste-free world, and we urgently need business investment to help make it happen.Fabian Garcia, President, Unilever North America
Commenting on Unilever’s new investment, Ron Gonen, founder and CEO of Closed Loop Partners said the move will “help accelerate the shift toward more circular supply chains by scaling best-in-class circular business models and supporting the technological breakthroughs and sustainable innovations that keep valuable materials continuously cycling in manufacturing supply chains.”
“We believe plastics’ place is inside the circular economy where it is reused, and not in the environment,” added Fabian Garcia, president of Unilever North America. “We’re advocating to transform the recycling system for a waste-free world, and we urgently need business investment to help make it happen.”
The move is aligned with Unilever’s global commitment to halving the use of virgin plastic by more than 100,000 metric tonnes, and ensuring that 100% of its plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
Unilever’s investment…will help accelerate the shift toward more circular supply chains.Ron Gonen, Founder & CEO, Closed Loop Partners
Currently, a number of the conglomerate’s iconic brands already use 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, such as Dove, Hellmann’s and Seventh Generation, but critics will point out that unless more drastic measures are taken from global corporations and major plastic producers, there will be little progress on the global plastic crisis, which will leave behind 710 million tonnes of plastic waste – even if we curb use by 80%.
Bringing the issue to the forefront of headlines was Last Week Tonight host John Oliver, who argued in a recent episode that regulations must be put in place to reign in large plastic producers, through mechanisms like the polluters pay principle (PPP) to shift the cost of recycling, collection and pollution to the players responsible for it.
Environmentalists have also pointed out that simply using more recycled materials won’t be enough, and that other circular low-waste solutions such as reusables must also be adopted. To that end, Unilever has launched a refill trial at British retail giant Asda, though the majority of its global products remain in single-use packaging.
Lead image courtesy of Unilever.