Unilever Australasia is increasing the content of post-consumer rigid plastic in a wide range of its products.
A Unilever spokesman said Unilever Australasia, an arm of London-based Unilever plc, has started piloting and testing new packaging that includes recycled plastic and aims to have the bottles on shelves early in 2019.
Unilever claims it will be Australia's first major consumer goods company to source high volumes of domestically recycled high density polyethylene for packaging for its home and personal care brands.
A company statement said: "Previously, recycled HDPE plastic has been challenging to source and use for these product categories due to economic and technical feasibility."
Asked how Unilever had met the challenges, the spokesman told Plastics News the company has worked hard to overcome barriers, but there is "much more work to be done and creating a [domestic] market for all types of recycled plastic requires heavy lifting from all players involved."
He said Unilever is also conducting a light weighting program to reduce packaging.
"It can require significant investment to reduce the amount of material in a pack by even 1 gram. However, thanks to collaborative efforts with suppliers, academics, start-ups and other organizations, we continue to develop innovative solutions to help us achieve a target of reducing the weight of packaging we use by one third by 2020," the company said.
For example, he said Unilever's 200 milliliter Sunsilk-brand shampoo and conditioner bottles are now made with 29 percent less plastic.
Unilever said it will introduce at least 25 percent recycled plastic into bottles for key brands this year and "go further wherever technically possible."
The spokesman said Unilever's packaging manufacturer, which he would not name, will source the recycled content from rigid plastic, such as shampoo and laundry detergent bottles, recycled through curbside bins.
Packaging will be marked with the amount of post-consumer recycled content used. Some products, for example Omo Eco Active laundry liquid, already identified that its packaging has 25 percent Australian-sourced post-consumer content.
Unilever Australasia CEO Clive Stiff said in a statement: "We want to give Australians confidence ... they are giving a new lease on life to plastic they recycle in their yellow bins."
In 2017, Unilever committed globally to design all its plastic packaging to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 and to use at least 25 percent recycled plastic packaging by 2025.
Stiff said: "While we are making good progress on packaging targets in Australia and New Zealand ... there is more work to do with availability [and] still major barriers in using recycled plastic content across our packaging. As a consumer goods company, we are acutely aware of the consequences of a linear take-make-dispose model and want to change it."
He said suppliers, packaging converters, brand owners, policy makers, retailers, collectors, sorters and recyclers have to work together to prompt "a complete shift in how we think about and use resources."