Unilever develops new technology to recycle plastic sachet waste

Unilever recently unveiled its ground-breaking technology to recycle sachet waste. This technology, called CreaSolv Process, has been developed with the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Germany and is inspired by an innovation used to recycle TV sets, said the company.

Hundreds of billions of plastic sachets are thrown away globally every year. Billions of single-use sachets are sold, particularly in developing and emerging markets. But without a viable recycling solution, this packaging ends up in landfill. Unilever’s new technology to recycle sachets will contribute to a circular economy as the sachets will be turned into plastic and channelled back into the supply chain, according to the company. At present, only 14 percent of all plastic packaging is recycled globally and Unilever has pledged to make 100 percent of packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

CreaSolv Process technology is said to have 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, as per the company.

“Billions of sachets are used once and just thrown away, all over the world, ending up in landfill or in our waterways and oceans,” said David Blanchard, Chief R&D Officer, Unilever. “There is a clear economic case for delivering this. We know that globally $80-120bn is lost to the economy through failing to properly recycle plastics each year. Finding a solution represents a huge opportunity,” he added.

Unilever is to open a pilot plant in Indonesia later this year to test the long-term commercial viability of the technology. Indonesia has been identified as a critical country in which to tackle waste, “producing 64m tonnes every year, with 1.3m tonnes ending up in the ocean.” The company is looking to create a sustainable system change by setting up waste collection schemes to channel the sachets to be recycled.