One of the companies behind some of the biggest brands in Australia – such as OMO, Rexona, Magnum and Dove – has revealed 90 per cent of its packaging is recyclable, reusable or compostable.
Unilever said the changes are barely detectable to consumers but many favourites have been redesigned in a bid to become more sustainable.
The company uses more than 1200 tonnes of recycled plastic every year to make products sold in Australia, which is the equivalent of six blue whales.
Recently, the 2023 Buying Green report shows that 71 per cent of shoppers consider sustainable packaging when deciding between items.
For instance, Magnum pint ice cream containers are made of 90 per cent recycled plastic, which means that 45 tonnes of new plastic is avoided in Australia each year.
For washing brand OMO the laundry scoops are made of bamboo fibre while the bottles have doubled their recycled plastic content to 50 per cent.
Meanwhile, Rexona, Lynx and Dove roll-on deodorants have been redesigned to use 30 per cent less plastic, meaning 105 tonnes of plastic is saved in Australia each year.
David Jones is Unilever ANZ’s packaging expert told news.com.au plastic is a useful material for getting products to customers safely and efficiently but with research showing without action three times more plastic could end up in oceans by 2040.
“This has to stop, and urgent action is needed now,” Mr Jones said, adding that is why Unilever focusses on using less plastic, making sure plastic used is designed to be recycled and emphasising the use of refill stations.
“There’s lots of levers driving the shift to sustainable packaging. Firstly, businesses like Unilever understand the importance of shifting from today’s ‘take-make-dispose’ model – where products are made, bought, used briefly, then thrown away.
“We take this challenge really seriously and for more than a decade we’ve been looking for ways to use less plastic, better plastic and where possible, no plastic at all.”
Mr Jones said the company was seeing more shoppers demand more sustainable packaging – as well as state regulations come into play.
He said the company’s goal was to make sustainable living commonplace.
“This means we want to make sustainable products accessible and affordable, while still ensuring we deliver on efficacy, quality, and convenience,” he said.
“There are lots of levers we pull to do this, from offering differing price points through our range of brands, to promotions, and different pack sizes.
“For us, designing sustainable packaging isn’t about charging a premium. It’s about improving the products our shoppers know and love so that when they buy them, they can have peace of mind that they are making a good choice for the environment.”
The OMO packaging has gone through the biggest change, according to Mr Jones, but it “didn’t happen overnight”.
“Unlike virgin plastic, recycled plastic isn’t made specifically for the job in hand – it’s a mix of different packaging so it often has inconsistent properties, such as its strength, smell and colour,” he said.
“When we were first testing our two litre OMO bottles with 50 per cent recycled plastic, we were finding they were cracking in the tight angle where the handle meets the bottle. To overcome this, we redesigned the bottles to smooth out any tight angles and after lots of trials we finally found a bottle shape that worked!”
In 2022, Unilever Australia and New Zealand became a Certified B Corporation, which means it has been independently verified for going above and beyond business standards when it comes to social and environmental performances.