Unilever to invest €100,000 in a new plastic-free laundry tablet

Unilever’s Rethink Plastic Hackathon for plastic-free laundry solution

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Unilever

Unilever will develop and pilot a plastic-free laundry solution to combat single-use sachets. The solution was developed during a one-day hackathon. The company has announced that it will invest €100,000 in a new plastic-free laundry tablet. The crowdsourced innovation has the potential to replace single-use sachets of laundry powder, a popular format for laundry detergents in the developing world that is problematic in terms of plastic waste.

The chosen idea was one of 10 new solutions to emerge from Unilever’s Rethink Plastic Hackathon, a one-day event that brought together Unilever teams with leading designers, innovators, venture capital and packaging experts. The Hackathon was hosted in partnership with One Young World, the premier global forum that connects young leaders to create lasting positive change around the world, and A Plastic Planet, an international campaign with a single goal to ignite and inspire the world to turn off the plastic tap.

The winning concept – an innovative laundry tablet – aims to replace the billions of single-use laundry sachets sold every year to provide an affordable solution for low-income consumers in developing markets. The innovation resides in an affordable plant-derived coating that protects each tablet against humidity, one of the main reasons for using plastic packaging in the first place. The tablet will be further developed before being trialled in a suitable market.

Kees Kruythoff, president of Unilever Home Care said, “The scale of the plastic waste issue is getting worse, not better, with the production of plastics expected to double over the next decade. Addressing this issue is the shared responsibility of all stakeholders in the value chain. However, as a major player in the consumer goods industry, we are aware that our response is critical in setting the pace of change. This Hackathon is part of our broader work with leading experts and innovators to redesign our packaging and work with the wider industry to accelerate the systemic change that is so urgently needed.”

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet added, “The fact that a huge multinational like Unilever is taking the issue of plastic pollution and solutions seriously is a strong message to all industry worldwide. Those businesses that do not seek to change and reduce their plastic usage will not survive.”

All the innovations from the event were open-source, to maximize potential market opportunities and help scale up impact. Other highly commended solutions included a detergent subscription model using attractive ceramic or glass bottles, and ‘Laundry on a roll’, dissolvable sheets of fabric detergent that are convenient and environmentally friendly. Unilever teams will further explore all ideas submitted on the day.

In the UK, Unilever is a signatory to the UK Plastic Pact, a unique pact between governments, businesses, local authorities, NGOs and citizens to tackle plastic waste and transform the UK’s plastics system.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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