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    Unilever under scanner over non-reusable sachets

    Plastic bottles and other decomposed trash. iStock image

    FMCG giant Unilever is on track to sell 53 billion non-reusable sachets in 2023, breaking its commitment to switch away from single-use plastic, a report has found.

    A research by the environment NGO Greenpeace has found that despite Unilever’s pledge to halve its use of virgin plastic by 2025, the company is on track to miss the target by nearly a decade, saying that the company’s throwaway sachets containing range of products such as condiments, beauty and health products are still marketed and sold in large quantities in global south.

    According to the maker, plastic sachets allow low-income consumers an opportunity to buy small amounts of products – often ones that provide hygiene or nutrition benefits like shampoo, toothpaste and food – which they would “otherwise not be able to afford”.

    The sachets majorly sold in global south are linked to pollution on land and in waterways, resulting in, for example, clogged drains, worsened flooding and threats to wildlife. Sachets produced by the Unilever brand Dove have reportedly been found polluting beaches and other waterways in the Philippines and Indonesia.

    Greenpeace is urging Unilever to phase out single-use plastic in the next decade and begin by stopping the use of sachets, The Guardian reported. Greenpeace is also calling on Unilever to back a global plastics treaty the NGO says must include a legally binding target of cutting plastic production by at least 75 per cent by 2040, based on a 2019 baseline, followed by a phase-down in the production.

    Nina Schrank, the head of plastics at Greenpeace UK, said, “Unilever really are pouring fuel on the fire of the plastic pollution crisis. Their brands like Dove are famous for telling the world they’re forces for good. But they’re pumping out a staggering amount of plastic waste. It’s poisoning our planet. You can’t claim to be a ‘purposeful’ company whilst bearing responsibility for such huge pollution. Unilever has to change.”

    The global consumer goods group has committed to reducing its plastic footprint and has said it wants to create a “waste-free world”.

    A Unilever spokesperson said that tackling plastic pollution is a top priority for the company which is still making progress across all its plastic goals. The company is a member of the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty, which is campaigning for an ambitious, legally binding UN plastic treaty.

    “In the past few years, we have rapidly increased our use of recycled plastic (PCR) in our global portfolio to 21 per cent. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation recently called out Unilever as one of the businesses making the most progress to reduce its virgin plastic packaging footprint.

    “We’re working on a range of solutions to reduce our use of plastic sachets, which are difficult to recycle, and replace them with alternatives. This is a complex technical challenge, with no quick fixes, and we are fully committed to working with industry partners and other stakeholders to develop viable, scalable alternatives that reduce plastic waste,” The Guardian quoted the Unilever spokesperson as saying.

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