The goal is simple: Collect and reuse more plastic than you produce.
Unilever North America feels it took another step in doing just Tuesday, when it announced a $15 million investment in Closed Loop Partners’ Leadership Fund to help recycle an estimated 60,000 metric tons of U.S. plastic packaging waste annually by 2025, an amount equivalent to more than half of Unilever’s plastics footprint in North America.
The impact of Unilever’s new investment and its continued use of post-consumer recycled plastic packaging, which the company said is approximately 59,000 metric tons per year, will underpin the delivery of its commitment to collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells by 2025.
Fabian Garcia is president of Unilever North America, which is based in Englewood Cliffs. He said the goal aligns with the company’s mission.
“We believe plastics’ place is inside the circular economy where it is reused, and not in the environment,” he said. “We’re advocating to transform the recycling system for a waste-free world, and we urgently need business investment to help make it happen.”
Closed Loop Partners’ Leadership Fund is a private equity fund that acquires and grows companies across the value chain working to increase recycling and keep valuable materials in the circular economy and out of landfills.
Ron Gonen, its founder and CEO, saluted Unilever for its commitment.
“Unilever is a pioneer and leader when it comes to recognizing the economic, social and environmental value of embedding circular economy principles throughout their business, critically moving from ambitious commitments and goals to tangible action and progress,” he said.
“Unilever’s investment in Closed Loop Partners’ Leadership Fund, in addition to its existing investment in our Infrastructure Fund, 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.”
Unilever’s goal to collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells is a part of its ambitious set of “Waste-Free World” commitments. Those global commitments include halving use of virgin plastic; ensuring all of its plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable; and using at least 25% recycled plastic in its packaging.
Half of the 118,000 metric tons of plastic packaging used by Unilever North America is PCR plastic. Many of its brands, including Dove, Hellmann’s and Seventh Generation, already use 100% PCR bottles. Unilever said the investment in Closed Loop Partners’ Leadership Fund will help secure additional PCR plastic supply for Unilever brands and increase access to recycled plastic feedstock processed by the companies the Fund invests in.
In addition to its private investments to improve recycling, Unilever said it also is advocating for producer responsibility legislation that would significantly increase broader investment needed from the industry to transform the recycling system. The company is working with major CPG companies through the Circular Economy Accelerators to promote a plan for brands to fund needed recycling infrastructure investments in the U.S. In Canada, Unilever North America participates in extended producer responsibility programs in provinces with established programs.