The consumer goods manufacturer is examining ways to incentivise the collection and reuse of used sachets on a large scale, and is looking to implement a specific sustainable business model solely for this material by 2015.

The company revealed that it has identified a “potential technological approach, pyrolysis, which turns sachet material into fuel and recovers up to 60% of its embedded energy”.

Partnering with a company in Chennai, India, Unilever says it has undertaken trials which have demonstrated “technical proof of principle” of turning sachets, pouches and other flexible plastic waste into fuel oil at a viable cost.

While this fuel can be sent to cement kilns, the company is looking into the potential of using it to power its own manufacturing operations in a closed loop process.

“We continue to analyse the results of these pilots, first to see if they can create a sustainable value for discarded sachets, and secondly, to understand whether they provide a potential business model for waste recovery in economies where recycling and disposal infrastructures are still in development,” it confirmed.

Unilever sells millions of products in single-use sachets and claims they are an efficient use of packaging as they create less waste by weight per millilitre of product sold than bottles.

It added that economic models centred around packaging collection and reuse would require greater partnership working with “other users of flexible plastic waste as well as municipal authorities and NGOs”.

Maxine Perella

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