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Unilever launches waste management project, sets 2025 circular economy target

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Leading consumer goods company Unilever East Africa, in partnership with waste management service provider Mr Green, has unveiled a “U-Turn waste project” through which it aims to achieve a key sustainability target of creating a circular economy for all its packaging materials, especially plastic.

The move is in line with the company’s ambition of reducing its environmental impact as it progresses on the journey to ensure that 100 percent of its plastic packaging is designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

The initiative is designed to create an end market for the material, with the overall aim being to align with the global firm’s commitment of increasing recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25 per cent by 2025.

Justin Apsey, Unilever CEO for East Africa said the plastic packaging target builds on the existing Unilever Sustainable Living Plan commitment of reducing the weight of its packaging by one third by 2020, and halving the waste associated with the disposal of products by 2020. He added that the move clearly demonstrates the firm’s responsibility to consumers and to the environment through such innovations in waste management.

“Today we have started an ambitious journey towards a circular economy for our plastic packaging, we commit to lead the way in driving a systemic and behaviour change among our peers and consumers towards creating a sustainable and clean environment for future generations.” said Mr. Apsey during a ceremony to officially unveil the project.

The zero waste to landfill target forms a key element of Unilever’s sustainable growth ambition. Nairobi produces around 2,400 tonnes of waste a day, of which roughly 60 percent is collected and only around 10 percent recycled. The rest is dumped illegally or burned. Eliminating this waste has resulted in 70 direct jobs at Mr. Green and provided opportunity for another 1700 waste collectors.

Reducing waste at source remains the number one priority, coupled with Unilever and its project partners finding innovative solutions for any remaining waste.

"We are excited to launch this new project with Unilever Kenya," said Keiran Smith, Founder and CEO Mr Green Africa. "This partnership has seen us unlock sustainable solutions to plastic waste management in Kenya, integrating a social component which has helped create more opportunities and employment to hundreds of waste pickers who were previously ignored.

“By providing a valued customer like Unilever Kenya with the tools to divert waste from landfills and to reduce waste generation through improved supply chain management, we can help to lower their disposal costs without sacrificing our own profitability. That is a win for Unilever Kenya, a win for us, and most of all, a win for the environment," said Mr Smith.

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