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Many governments and organisations are working hard to deal with plastic waste and pollution, but Unilever believes that overall, the problem’s getting worse and efforts aren’t keeping pace. Unilever says we need a UN treaty to truly tackle the issue.

“Banning plastic altogether isn’t the answer, and the solution lies instead in reducing the use of virgin plastic, while keeping all plastic that is produced in a circular economy,” the company said.

“We’re working hard on both these fronts because we fully accept that the plastic that we produce is our responsibility. 

“We have pledged to halve our use of virgin plastic by 2025 – partly by eliminating over 100,000 tonnes of plastic from our packaging – and design all our packaging to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable. And we’re making good progress.”

Unilever has also signed up to voluntary industry agreements, including the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which aims to eradicate plastic waste and pollution at source, and various Plastics Pacts that bring together governments, NGOs and businesses to accelerate the progress towards the reuse and repurposing of plastic.

And according to the Global Commitment 2021 Progress Report, the brands and retailers involved with these agreements have collectively reduced their consumption of virgin plastic in packaging for the second year running. 

“This trajectory will be accelerated by new commitments that are set to see virgin plastic use fall by almost 20 per cent in absolute terms by 2025 compared to 2018,” Unilever said. 

“But while things are moving in the right direction and gaining momentum, these types of commitments alone aren’t enough. We need to go much further and much faster. 

“Without changes to how nations use, recycle and ultimately reduce plastic usage, we will not fix the problem. We need tough, global action that gets to the root cause. And in some cases, that means moving from voluntary to mandatory measures.”

This is why, alongside more than 70 other businesses, Unilever is calling for an ambitious and legally binding UN treaty – based on a circular economy approach – to tackle plastic pollution on a global scale, similar to how the Paris Agreement put us on a path to tackle the climate crisis. 

A shared goal and approach

Unilever believes the treaty should align everyone – governments, businesses and civil society – behind a common understanding of the causes and a shared approach to address them. 

The company also believes that it must be legally binding, must include mandatory targets to limit virgin plastic production, and must work at a national government level to drive accountability. 

“We’re at a critical point in time to establish an ambitious UN treaty on plastics, one that cuts down virgin plastic production, fosters collaboration for systemic solutions, and speeds up the transition to a circular economy globally,” said Alan Jope, Unilever CEO. 

“At the upcoming UN Environment Assembly, a process to deliver legally-binding goals must be agreed before it’s too late.

“The scale and complexity of the crisis is well understood. Momentum is there, and we know what needs to be done. Now is the time to take those tough decisions, to tackle plastic pollution once and for all.” 

Unilever believes that ensuring every country participates and complies will unlock the investment required to scale innovations, infrastructure and skills in those places most in need of support.

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