According to the company, reaching this milestone has required “minimal need for capital expenditure” and has avoided cumulative disposal costs of more than €17m.

Later this month, Unilever will publish its Sustainable Living Report 2013, which it says will confirm that the company has reduced total waste sent for disposal by 66% per tonne of production since 2008.

Unilever chief supply chain officer Pier Luigi Sigismondi said: “We have seen a rapid acceleration in converting the network to zero waste. In 2010, 52 sites were there. We have now reached 200 sites.

“We are on track to hit our revised target of 100% of sites by 2015, five years ahead of the original 2020 target. I am proud of the team effort which has got us to this milestone,” he added.

Sigismondi attributed the company’s waste reduction initiatives and ability to “create a mindset for change across the entire network”.

The company said that reducing waste at source was identified early on as a game changer when the campaign began in 2010.

It said that 100% Zero Non-Hazardous Waste to Landfill has been achieved at all European sites through the application of the “three Rs” principle: reduce, reuse and recycle.

Where solid waste cannot be eliminated, reused or recycled, it is sent for energy recovery instead of to a landfill.

Behaviour change is being created by transferring knowledge from best practice factories. Unilever’s Tortuguitas site in Argentina, previously the second largest waste generating site in the company, the factory director “helped create a zero mindset which spread across the entire factory encouraging them to reach their goal” of sending zero hazardous waste to landfill.

“The intention now is to spread this knowledge across the remaining factories. The Environmental Coordinator from the Africa cluster has recently visited Tortuguitas to learn about the best practices,” the company said.

In January, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has announced Unilever as its latest Global Partner, joining a group of key industry players working to pilot and test circular economy practices at scale.

Leigh Stringer

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