P&G develops world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle made from beach plastic

The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) has today (19 January) announced that it will be mass-producing the world's first recyclable shampoo bottle made from up to 25% post-consumer recycled (PCR) beach plastic.

Working in partnership with recycling experts TerraCycle and SUEZ, the new bottle will first be made available through the Head & Shoulders brand and sold in Carrefour supermarkets in France this summer, before being rolled out to other P&G haircare brands and sold across Europe.

By the end of 2018, P&G is aiming to be producing half a billion bottles a year that incorporate up to 25% PCR plastic – representing more than 90% of the firm’s hair care bottles sold in Europe across its portfolio of flagship brands, which also includes Pantene.

Announcing the firm’s latest circular economy innovation at the World Economic Forum in Davos this afternoon, P&G’s vice-president of global sustainability Virginie Helias said: “At P&G, we believe that actions speak louder than words. The increased use of PCR plastic across our hair care portfolio of brands demonstrates our continued commitment to driving real change.

“The Head & Shoulders recyclable shampoo bottle made with beach plastic is a world’s first in the hair care category. Increasing the use of recycled plastic in the packaging of our flagship brands, like Pantene and Head & Shoulders, makes it easier for consumers to choose more sustainable products, without any trade-offs.

“So, while we’re proud of what we’ve done and what we’re doing, we know there is much more work ahead.”

Circular traction

Today’s announcement is an important step towards achieving the company’s 2020 goal of doubling the tonnage of PCR plastic used in packaging – something it has been doing on a smaller scale for more than 25 years. The new project will require a supply of 2,600 tons of PCR plastic every year – the same weight as eight fully loaded Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

This also marks another positive circular economy advancement in an ongoing partnership between P&G and recycling group TerraCycle. At the end of 2014, edie reported that P&G’s air freshener brand Febreze had enlisted the support of TerraCycle to enable its previously non-recyclable air and home care products to be recycled for the first time.

Commenting on this latest PCR plastic initiative, TerraCycle chief executive Tom Szaky said: “This partnership represents an important step for TerraCycle. We are proud to be working with one of the world’s largest brands to create a breakthrough product.

“Creating the world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle with beach plastics is a start of an important journey. With the circular economy gaining more traction, we hope that other global brands will work with green suppliers and use their influence to drive change for the benefit of the environment.”

P&G’s announcement comes just days after the consumer goods firm unveiled a bold pledge to effectively eliminate all manufacturing waste from its global network of more than 100 production sites by 2020. With more than half (56%) of P&G’s production sites already holding zero-waste-to-landfill status, the Ariel, Gillette and Oral-B brand owner announced is now looking to make its entire manufacturing operations closed-loop, which will mean eliminating or beneficially re-using about 650,000 metric tonnes of waste that would typically go to landfill.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), 95% of the value of plastic packaging material – worth $80-120 billion annually – is lost to the economy. Based on current trajectories, the organisation estimates that, by 2050, there could be more plastics than fish in the ocean by weight. The EMF’s New Plastics Economy initiative released a major new report earlier this week which provides a roadmap of priority actions for businesses to move towards a circular global plastics system in 2017.

P&G’s Virginie Helias on the edie podcast

P&G was recently the subject of a special episode of edie’s Sustainable Business Covered podcast, with the group’s then-global sustainability director Virginie Helias providing an insight into the skills and expertise she had acquired after 28 years’ experience with the FMCG firm. Listen to that podcast episode here.

Luke Nicholls

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