Unilever’s energy sourcing becomes carbon neutral

By Matt Atherton contact

- Last updated on GMT

Unilever's Leatherhead site was one of five sites that became 100% carbon neutral in energy
Unilever's Leatherhead site was one of five sites that became 100% carbon neutral in energy

Related tags: Sustainability

Unilever UK & Ireland has become carbon neutral from energy sources at five of its UK and Ireland plants, while its parent company commits to using only recyclable plastic packaging by 2025.

The Marmite and PG Tips manufacturer signed a deal with renewable energy firm GENeco last week to use biomethane to power its sites’ heating in Leatherhead, Embankment, Norwich, Trafford Park and Cork. The biogas would “significantly”​ lower its carbon emissions.

The biomethane is generated by converting inedible food waste and sewage into energy.

“In 2015, our business committed to making our operations carbon positive by 2030,”​ said Unilever sustainable business director Charlotte Carroll.

‘100% renewable energy’

Unilever’s green movement – at a glance

  • Carbon neutral (in energy) at five of its UK and Ireland sites
  • Committed to using 100% recyclable plastics by 2025
  • Would find solution to recycling multi-layered sachets

“With biomethane still in its relative infancy compared with other forms of renewable energy, this agreement marks a significant step forward in helping us source 100% renewable energy for five of our UK and Ireland sites.

“Recognising that this is only the start of our journey, we hope to build on this great foundation and eventually convert waste from our own operations into energy to truly support a circular economy.”

Meanwhile Unilever has pledged that 100% of its plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

The manufacturer also committed to finding a technical solution to recycling multi-layered sachets, and would share the results with the rest of the industry. It would also renew its membership of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – a charity promoting the circular economy – for another three years.

‘Managed responsibly and efficiently’

Unilever ceo Paul Polman said: “Our plastic packaging plays a critical role in making our products appealing, safe and enjoyable for our consumers. Yet it is clear that if we want to continue to reap the benefits of this versatile material, we need to do much more as an industry to help ensure it is managed responsibly and efficiently after consumer-use.

“We hope these commitments will encourage others in the industry to make collective progress towards ensuring that all of our plastic packaging is fully recyclable and recycled.”

Unilever called on the entire industry to move toward a circular economy. It set a target to source 100% of its energy from renewables by 2030.

What is the circular economy?

  • “A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life”​ - WRAP

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