Unilever to invest €100k in plastic-free laundry tablet

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Persil owner Unilever is to invest €100k (£89k) in developing a plastic-free laundry tablet, in a bid to cut plastic waste in developing countries.

The planned innovation was one of 10 ideas to emerge from a recent one-day ‘hackathon’ – an event that brought Unilever together with leading designers, innovators, venture capital and packaging experts.

It was hosted late last month in partnership with One Young World, a global forum that connects young leaders to create “lasting positive change around the world”, and A Plastic Planet, an international campaign with a single goal to “inspire the world to turn off the plastic tap”.

The event’s winning concept was a plastic-free laundry tablet, which had the potential to replace the billions of single-use laundry sachets sold every year, said Unilever. The sachet was “a popular format for laundry detergents in the developing world that is problematic in terms of plastic waste”.

The sustainable alternative from the hackathon offers “an affordable solution for low-income consumers in developing markets”. It uses a plant-derived coating that protects each tablet against humidity – one of the main reasons for using plastic packaging. The concept would be “further developed before being trialled in a suitable market” Unilever added.

The fmcg giant’s president of homecare, Kees Kruythoff, said global production of plastics was expected to double over the next decade. “Addressing this issue is the shared responsibility of all stakeholders in the value chain. However, as a major player in the consumer goods industry, we are aware that our response is critical in setting the pace of change.”

All the innovations from the hackathon were open-source “to maximise potential market opportunities and help scale up impact”.

Highly commended solutions included a detergent subscription model using ceramic or glass bottles, and dissolvable sheets of fabric detergent. Unilever intends to further explore all ideas submitted on the day.

The global impact of plastic waste was “disastrous” said Kate Robertson, co-founder of One Young World. “We need to highlight the importance of creating plastic-free solutions that can be replicated across industries and markets.”

A Plastic Planet co-founder Sian Sutherland added: “The fact a huge multinational like Unilever is taking the issue of plastic pollution and solutions seriously is a strong message to all industry worldwide. Those businesses that do not seek to change and reduce their plastic usage will not survive.”

Unilever’s €100k investment is the company’s latest effort to reduce its plastic footprint globally. It is committed to ensuring all its plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 – by which time recycled plastic content in its packaging will be at least 25%.

Nestlé unveils eco-packaging R&D centre

Nestlé has announced the creation of the Nestlé Institute of Packaging Sciences, dedicated to “the discovery and development of functional, safe and environmentally friendly packaging solutions”.

Part of the company’s global research organisation, the new institute will be located in Lausanne, Switzerland. It would employ around 50 people and include “a state-of-the-art laboratory complex as well as facilities for rapid prototyping” said Nestlé.

The investment is the supplier’s last step towards making 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.

“We want to be a leader in developing the most sustainable packaging solutions for our food and bev-erage products,” said Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider.

“To achieve this, we are enhancing our research capabilities to develop new packaging materials and solutions. Through this, we hope to address the growing packaging waste problem, in particular plastics. We aim to minimise our impact on the natural environment while safely delivering to our consumers healthier and tastier products.”

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