Unilever plc has set a goal to collect and process more plastic packaging for recycling than it uses in its consumer products by 2025.
To make that happen, it announced a $15 million investment into the Closed Loop Partners' Leadership Fund.
The fund is a private equity fund focused on acquiring companies across the value chain that are looking to upgrade their recycling infrastructure and create a circular system. Unilever joins Nestlé SA, which invested $30 million in the initiative last year.
Currently, about half of the 118,000 metric tons — 59,000 tonnes — of plastic packaging used each year by Unilever North America is post-consumer plastic and many of its brands, including Dove, Hellmann's and Seventh Generation, already use 100 percent post-consumer plastic in their bottles.
With its investment in the Closed Loop Partners' Leadership Fund, Unilever aims to recycle an estimated 60,000 tonnes of U.S. plastic packaging waste. The investment will also help secure additional recycled plastic supply for Unilever brands and increase access to recycled plastic feedstock processed by the companies the Fund invests in.
"We believe plastics' place is inside the circular economy where it is reused and not in the environment," Unilever North America President Fabian Garcia 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."
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. These include halving its use of virgin plastic; ensuring all of its plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable; and using at least 25 percent recycled plastic in its packaging.
"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," said Ron Gonen, founder and CEO of Closed Loop Partners. "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."
Next to its private investments to improve recycling, Unilever is also advocating for expanded producer responsibility legislation that would significantly increase broader investment needed from the industry to transform the recycling system. The company is working with major consumer product 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.