Unilever is out with what the company is calling "ground-breaking new technology" aimed at recycling multi-layer plastic pouches in uses around the world.
The pouches, also called sachets, are typically used once and thrown away. And in developing countries, without adequate solid waste management, that can lead to litter problems.
Unilever, with global headquarters in London, will open a pilot plant in Indonesia this year to test the CreaSolv Process to handle the typically unrecycled pouches. The plant will test the "long-term viability of the technology," the company said.
CreaSolv was developed by the Fraunhofer Institute of Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Germany and is based on an approach to recycle television sets, Unilever said.
"Billions of sachets are used once and just thrown away, all over the world, ending up in landfill or in our waterways and oceans. At the start of this year we made a commitment to help solve this problem, developing new recycling technologies," said David Blanchard, chief research and development officer at Unilever, in a statement.
"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," he said.
The pouches being targeted for recycling are marked as a No. 7, or other plastic, which is not easily or typically recycled.
Indonesia was selected because of its waste management problems.
The program will establish waste collection programs targeting the sachets and is working with local "waste banks, governments and retailers and will look to empower waste pickers, integrate them into the mainstream economy and provide a potential long term income," Unilever reported.
"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 6 kilos of pure polymers with the same energy effort as the production of one kilo of virgin polymer," said Andreas Mäurer, department head of plastic recycling at Fraunhofer, in a statement.