Unilever aims for switch to recycled food packaging

Posted on March 31, 2022 by DrRossH in Plastic Waste News


According to the company, the findings of a recent survey by Boston Consulting Group of 15,000 people globally, which revealed that 83 per cent of millennial and Gen Z consumers said they’d be willing to pay more for products that came in sustainable packaging, has triggered a new ecosystem of alternative packaging materials and new business models. 

This includes the use of recycled and recyclable plastic, graded especially for food products to ensure safety.

Using mechanical and advanced recycling to increase supply

“Presently, there is not enough supply of recycled plastics to meet the needs for use as food packaging,” said F&R packaging capability director, Sanjeev Das, explaining that there is limited availability of food-grade recycled plastics – especially food-grade recycled polypropylene (rPP) and polyethylene (rPE) plastics which account for 75 per cent of the plastics used in Unilever’s food packaging.

Unilever says that this has seen its Foods and Refreshment R&D team work to create sustainable sources using two complementary routes.

The first is mechanical recycling which sees items sorted according to their material. For example, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic used to make plastic bottles is sorted into one recycling stream, polyethylene (PE) used to make plastic bags into another. Once separated, they’re cleaned and transformed into recycled raw material to make new items.

Unilever confirms that all its Hellmann’s plastics bottles and jars in the US and Canada are made from 100 per cent recycled and recyclable plastic which have been recovered this way.

The second way Unilever says that it is increasing the supply of recycled plastic is through advanced recycling. This sees mixed plastic waste broken down into its fundamental building blocks and reconstructed to make new plastic packaging that is especially suitable for food-grade packaging.