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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Unilever's New Plastic-Molding Process Could Save 27,000 Tons Per Year

Unilever announced on Tuesday that its Dove Body Wash will now come in bottles that contain at least 15 percent less plastic, thanks to a new packaging technology. Unilever says it will make the breakthrough process — which represents another step towards its goal to halve its waste footprint by 2020 — available for use throughout the industry.

The MuCell® Technology for Extrusion Blow Moulding (EBM), created in close collaboration with two of Unilever’s global packaging suppliers, ALPLA and MuCell Extrusion, represents a breakthrough in bottle technology: by using gas-injection to create gas bubbles in the middle layer of the bottle wall, it reduces the density of the bottle and the amount of plastic required, while maintaining 100 percent recyclability.

The new process will be deployed first in Europe across the Dove Body Wash range before rolling it out globally. Unilever says with up to 33 million Dove Body Wash bottles sold across Europe in 2013, the new technology could save up to 275 tons of plastic on the Continent per year; a full roll-out across every Unilever product and packaging format could save up to 27,000 tons of plastic.

“MuCell**®** Technology is an exciting innovation. Whilst consumers won’t see any difference in the bottles, the impact on the environment will be very real,” Mark Lindenfelzer, President of MuCell Extrusion LLC, said. “We’re delighted to be part of this development and believe that it marks a real shift for manufacturers who want to behave responsibly.”

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Unilever will waive specific exclusivity rights by January 2015 so that other manufacturers can also utilize the technology.

“We’re always on the search for new technologies that can help us achieve our ambition to build a more sustainable business and halve our environmental footprint, and working with our two partners, we’ve created a unique technology that will transform our portfolio,” says Paul Howells, Vice President R&D Packaging at Unilever. “But there’s only so much that Unilever can achieve on our own; and by opening up access to other manufacturers we will really start to see an impact. We very much hope that our peers in the industry will take advantage of this technology too and apply it to their products.”

Unilever says its upcoming Sustainable Living Report 2013, due later this month, will confirm that its total footprint from packaging waste to landfill has decreased 11 percent as a result of efficient pack designs and the disposal of sauce brands with large waste footprints.

Unilever isn’t the only CPG giant putting more thought into its packaging of late: In October, P&G unveiled a new process to mold plastic that it says creates up to 75 percent thinner packaging than the current industry standard and could save P&G $1 billion a year by using less plastic and different raw materials. The company says the process makes it easier to use recycled resins or plant-based alternatives to petrochemicals and will help make packages more recyclable. P&G says it plans to use the material for its own products and may also sell it to other marketers from non-competitive package-goods players to automotive giants.

And just last week, Colgate-Palmolive committed to making 100 percent of its packaging for three of its four product categories completely recyclable by 2020, and develop a recyclable toothpaste tube or package, which would bring its fourth product category close to the same sustainability standard.


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