While plastic has its place in the safe and efficient distribution of products, Unilever wanted to find a more environmentally friendly approach to packaging for its world-famous ice cream brand, Magnum. Unilever has long recognised its responsibilities both in addressing the challenge of keeping plastic waste out of the environment, and in leading the food and refreshment industry towards a more sustainable future.
Customers rightly expect all packaging to be sustainable and robust, including its market-leading ice cream. With more people consuming ice cream at home owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the need to find a solution to this issue had become all the more relevant.
Innovating for a circular plastics economy
With a global packaging commitment already in place to reduce the amount of virgin plastic in use, Magnum has stated that all its packaging will soon be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable and made with post-consumer recycled material to drive the circular economy approach. However, while recycled polypropylene (rPP) options were already available for beauty and personal care products, none were approved for food-grade packaging use. In addition, it was not possible to produce food-grade recycled polypropylene plastic with any other recycling system.
That’s why Unilever decided to work closely with SABIC, a global leader in diversified chemicals, to develop a pioneering new recycling process to transform post-consumer mixed plastic waste, which would otherwise have ended up in landfill or an incinerator, into a resin with the same characteristics as virgin food-grade resin. The new material is a certified circular polypropylene, that uses feedstock from recycling mixed, used plastic.
Mark Vester, Circular Economy Leader at SABIC, added, “Magnum tubs display a great collaborative effort between Unilever and SABIC, a true collaboration and innovation which drives positive change towards closing the loop on valuable, used plastics.”
Sustainability in numbers
The rPP tubs, the world’s first within the ice cream industry, were successfully piloted in Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands in 2019, before being rolled out across all European countries in 2020. By the end of that year, all Magnum pint tubs in Europe were produced from the new material, equating to more than 160,000 kilograms of recycled plastic. The rollout has continued across the globe during 2021, making a significant contribution to Unilever’s broader commitment to halve its use of virgin plastic by more than 100,000 tonnes and accelerate its use of recycled plastic by 2025. Unilever’s goal is that, by this date, all Magnum tubs will be made with recycled materials.
We are proud to be the world’s first ice cream brand to pioneer this ground-breaking technology. Through this new approach, we hope to lead the food and refreshment industry towards a more sustainable future, paving the way to a circular economy.Julien Barraux – Global Magnum Vice President