Unilever Focuses on Eliminating Waste from Manufacturing, Operations

Unilever Sustainability

(Credit: Unilever)

by | Mar 11, 2022

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More than two-thirds of Unilever’s manufacturing waste is from biological sources and the company has focused on refuse, reduce, reuse and recover philosophies across its operations to address that problem.

The company says that waste is often in the form of sludge from wastewater or inedible food waste. Unilever’s goal is to reuse the waste by bio-material processing or recycling and recovering it into new products and materials, such as producing biogas.

Unilever, which was recognized as a sustainability leader by GlobeScan and SustainAbility in 2021, says it recycled or recovered 96% of its total waste last year. In addition to manufacturing, the company’s goal is to eliminate waste across operations, including offices, distribution centers and warehouses.

The overall objective is to limit how much waste is generated at the source, the company says. It also requires suppliers to use sustainable packaging and resources, such as reusable pallets. At a factory in India, for example, the facility receives jam pulp in reusable drums that Unilever says reduces waste by 100 metric tons a year.

Unilever also says it has increased its reuse rate of waste by 20% recently and started new programs, such as one to turn low-grade food waste into fly larvae that can be used as a source of animal food protein. Overall, the company plans to cut its food waste in half by 2025.

Additionally, the company has a focus on circular manufacturing. For items that cannot be recycled, Unilever has found ways to turn old resources into materials into alternative fuels or raw materials for processes such as cement production.

Unilever also extracted biogas from anaerobic digestion to fuel thermal heating. In other areas, the company has added more efficient machinery, such was forklift trucks with lithium batteries that use a quarter less energy than traditional resources.

The company’s tea division, Ekaterra, is another example of sustainability efforts as it sources 98% of its teas sustainably as well as uses regenerative agriculture. Ekaterra also plans to use 100% recyclable, compostable or reusable packaging by 2025.

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