On 24 October 2018, Unilever and Veolia signed a three-year collaboration agreement to jointly work on emerging technologies that will help create a circular economy on plastics across various geographies, starting in India and Indonesia. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, just 14% of the plastic packaging used globally is collected for recycling after use, with 40% ending up in landfill and a third in fragile ecosystems.
In 2017, Unilever made an industry leading commitment to ensure that all its plastic packaging will be designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. To help create an end market for this material, the company also committed to increase the recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25% by 2025. These targets are driving real change in the business – in particular how packaging is designed for recyclability and reuse.
In reaching this important agreement, Unilever and Veolia acknowledge that the issue of plastic waste is a shared responsibility that requires bold action across the value chain to develop and scale up collection and reprocessing infrastructure, which is critical in the transition towards a circular economy. The work will focus on material collection, which will help channel recycled content back into the value chain. Veolia will work with Unilever to implement used packaging collection solutions, add recycling capacity and develop new processes and business models through this partnership in various countries.
Marc Engel, Unilever’s chief Supply Chain Officer, commented, “The scale of the plastic waste issue is getting worse, not better, with the production of plastics expected to double over the next two decades. We all have a lot more to do to address this critical issue and we hope that by partnering with Veolia, a world leader in waste management, we can take meaningful strides towards a circular economy.”
Laurent Auguste, senior executive vice-president of Veolia for Development, Innovation and Markets, said, “There is an undeniable need to transform the current way plastic packaging end of life is managed in order to reduce significantly its environmental footprint. It will take a collaboration of a new kind between all the actors of the value chain. With this global partnership, Veolia and Unilever join forces in various geographies around the globe and, from the collection to the recycling, take a leadership role to redefine a responsible and sustainable future for packaging.”
While Unilever and its Hindustan Unilever are well known, not everyone has heard of the Veolia Group which designs and provides water, waste and energy management solutions. In 2017, the Veolia group supplied 96 million people with drinking water and 62 million people with wastewater service, produced nearly 55 million megawatt hours of energy and converted 47 million metric tons of waste into new materials and energy. Listed on the Paris stock exchange, Veolia Environnement recorded consolidated revenue of EUR 25.12 billion in 2017 (US$ 30.1 billion).