By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Leading consumer goods manufacturer Unilever Philippines, which sells more than half of its products in sachet plastic packaging, is pursuing plans for a pilot recycling plant in the country utilizing its own IT solution as part of a comprehensive approach to address post-consumer waste which puts a strain on the environment, particularly waterways.
Ed Sunico, Unilever vice president, said that the realization of the project will rely on the participation of domestic industries because Unilever could only serve as solutions provider with its CreaSolv Process Technology to the project.
According to Sunico, the planned pilot project to be patterned after Unilever Indonesia’s project will need 7 tons per day of used plastic sachets. Sunico said there is no official data on the volume of plastic sachets in the local market, not even for Unilever, but said that more than 50 percent of products produced by Unilever are sold in plastic sachets.
The Unilever solution called CreaSolv Process Technology is being pilot tested by Unilever Indonesia. CreaSolv® Process technology has been adapted from a method used to separate brominated flame retardants from waste electrical and electronic equipment polymers. During the process, the plastic is recovered from the sachet, and the plastic then used to create new sachets for Unilever products – creating a full circular economy approach.
In 2017, Unilever Global announced the opening of a pilot plant in Indonesia to test the long-term commercial viability of the technology. Indonesia, is a critical country in which to tackle waste, producing 64m tons every year, with 1.3 million tons ending up in the ocean.
To tackle the industry-wide sachet waste issue, Unilever is looking to create a sustainable system change by setting up waste collection schemes to channel the sachets to be recycled. Currently Unilever is testing this by working with local waste banks, governments and retailers and will look to empower waste pickers, integrate them into the mainstream economy and to provide a potential long term income, generating wider growth in the economy.
This announcement was part of Unilever’s pledge to ensure all of its plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Unilever had already committed to reducing the weight of its packaging by one-third by 2020 and increasing the use of recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25 percent by 2025.
Already, the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability (PARMS), mostly comprising of fast moving consumer goods companies, has signed an agreement in December last year to put up a P25-million plastics recycling facility.
Meantime, Sunico said that Unilever has maintained its growth in 2017 with a high growth in sales, which the company hopes to repeat this year.
Sunico said that they have been able to grow above industry growth as its products are either number one or number two in their respective product categories.
“We are either number 1 or 2 in all products,” said Sunico.
“We’re doing very well,” adds Sunico noting that its exports of Halal foods to Malaysia are also increasing. It also exports deodorant products.
So far, the bulk of its products are still manufactured at its Paco facility except for the food items which are now produced at its plant in General Trias, Cavite. Its ice cream products are produced in Pasig while its distribution center is located in Cabuyao, Laguna.
As much as 80 percent of the company’s products are sourced locally, except for the oral care from Indonesia and some skin brands from Thailand.