We have made modest progress against our targets.
This area is complex, as we anticipated. In some countries there is almost no infrastructure available to collect waste and some materials cannot readily be recycled as technologies do not yet exist. In other countries with more developed infrastructure, certain packaging formats, although manufactured from popular materials, such as PET, are still not collected and recycled in significant volumes.
We are using the knowledge gained from infrastructure studies and pilot initiatives to develop the most suitable solutions, whether this involves developing a new recycling waste stream or reviewing the materials used in our products.
Encouraging more recycling
We are building our knowledge of recycling in several ways.
In the US, our Dove and Suave brands are working with Recyclebank to incentivise consumers to recycle more bathroom products. Unilever Ventures has invested indirectly in Recyclebank as it will help us increase our understanding of how to encourage people to recycle more.
In Europe, we have commissioned studies in several countries aimed at understanding the recycling infrastructure for polypropylene (PP) pots, trays and tubs. These are widely used by our margarine brands, Wall’s ice creams and Vaseline jars. The studies have shown that this type of packaging is hardly recycled and, at best, is burnt for energy. We are currently engaged in discussions with players from each stage of the recycling process. We intend to pilot a project in 2013 focused on creating a viable business model which stimulates greater demand for PP pots, trays and tubs to be collected, sorted and recycled.
Deeper insights drive action
Our detailed analysis shows that national recycling rates for particular materials often lack clarity. For example, a 90% recycling rate for aluminium packaging may be based largely on recycling of aluminium drinks cans, and it is therefore inappropriate to apply the same rate when calculating waste to landfill for our aluminium aerosol packaging.
This analysis helps focus our efforts to increase recycling for specific packaging formats.
For example we have increased aerosol deodorant recycling through strategic partnerships with industry associations and some of our customers in the UK, Brazil and Mexico.