Unilever Australia on track for sustainablity targets

Unilever Australia has announced it is on track to meet 80 per cent of its Sustainable Living Plan commitments, which include improving the health and wellbeing for 1 billion people and reducing the company’s environmental impact by half.

The plan originally launched in 2010 and aimed to decouple the company’s growth from its environmental impact, while increasing the company’s positive social impact.

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Some key commitments include sourcing 100 per cent of all grid electricity used in manufacturing with renewable sources by 2020, becoming carbon positive in its manufacturing operations by 2030 and making 100 per cent of its plastic packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable while increasing the recycled plastic content in its packaging by 25 per cent by 2025.

Unilever Australia and New Zealand CEO Clive Stiff said the company has made good progress towards the targets in Australia and globally and that consumers were increasingly aware of the impact the products they purchase have on the environment.

“We also want to be transparent about how much more work there is still to do. This is critical when we are witnessing a crisis of trust in institutions in Australia and across the world. We believe business must play a leading role in restoring trust, and that at the heart of trust lies transparency,” Mr Stiff said.

“We also know that the biggest challenges facing our nation and our world can’t be addressed on our own. There is an ever-increasing need for us to work in partnership to drive transformational change across our value chain. To do so will require a new level of transparency across the board and business must be part of the solution.”

Coles to halve food waste by 2020

Coles has announced it will halve food waste across its supermarkets by 2020, make all packaging of Coles Brand products recyclable and reduce plastic wrapping on fruit and vegetables.

The company has pledged to divert 90 per cent of all supermarket waste, including food, cardboard and plastic, from landfill by 2022 and donate the equivalent of 100 million meals to people in need by 2020 by redistributing surplus food.

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The supermarket giant is also planning to begin phasing out the use of single use plastic bags in its stores on 1 July.

Removing double plastic packaging for fruit, selling bunched vegetables like kale and silver beet without plastic and removing plastic packaging from Coles Brand bananas are among the initiatives planned to reduce plastic waste.

Replacing the packaging for meat and poultry products with recycled and renewable materials and replacing single use fresh produce bags with 30 per cent recycled content are also part of Coles commitments.

The company will also provide its customers with an option to recycle soft plastics at every Coles supermarket across Australia, which can be turned into outdoor furniture and road base.

Coles Managing Director John Durkan said Coles wanted to lead the way in its commitment to the environment.

“We know that 69 per cent of customers say that we need to actively reduce waste and landfill through recyclable packaging and find alternative uses for waste,” he said.

“We are delighted to be the only Australian supermarket to sell own brand water bottles that are both 100 per cent recyclable and 100 per cent made from recycled materials. Now we are the first major food retailer in Australia to announce a target to make all of our own brand packaging recyclable by 2020, ahead of the Federal Government’s target of 2025.”

The company also plans to connect every Coles store with Food rescue program SecondBite, meaning surplus edible food from supermarkets will be redistributed to people in need.

Mr Durkan said connecting an additional 130 supermarkets to SecondBite will also divert further waste from landfill.

“By 2020, we want to provide the equivalent of 100 million meals to Australians in need. Since 2011, we’ve donated around 72 million meals to SecondBite and Foodbank so we’ve still got 28 million meals to go.”

Coles has also pledged that it will label all Coles Brand products with recycling information to assist consumers when it comes to disposing of their waste.

Nestlé aim for products to be completely recyclable by 2025

Nestlé has announced its goal to make 100 per cent of it packaging recyclable or re-usable by 2025.

The news comes in response to the company’s opinion that there is an urgent need to minimise the impact of packaging that ends up in landfill or as litter.

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To achieve this goal, the company says it will focus on eliminating non-recyclable plastics, encourage the use of plastics that allow for better recycling rates and eliminate or change complex combinations of packaging materials.

Nestlé said in a statement that it is committed to playing an active role in the development of collection, sorting and recycling schemes.

The company also said it would work with chain partners and industry associations to explore different packaging to reduce plastic usage and to facilitate recycling.

Labelling products with recycling information and promoting a market for recycled plastics were also steps mentioned to develop a circular economy.

Nestlé Chief Executive Officer Mark Schneider said, “Plastic waste is one of the biggest sustainability issues the world is facing today. Tackling it requires a collective approach. We are committed to finding improved solutions to reduce, re-use and recycle. Our ambition is to achieve 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025.”

Great Pacific Garbage Patch bigger than originally thought

Over 79 thousand tonnes of plastic is floating inside the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, 16 times higher than originally estimated, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

The report examined a major ocean plastic accumulation zones between California and Hawaii called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Laurent Lebron and colleagues authored the study and found the amount of microplastics in the area were also rapidly accumulating, from 0.4 kilograms squared in the 1970s to 1.23 kilograms squared in 2015.

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According to the report, 99.9 per cent of all debris in this part of the ocean is made up of plastics. 46 per cent of this plastic is made up of fishing nets and three quarters of the debris was larger than 5 centimetres, including hard plastics and film.

Microplastics accounted for 8 per cent of the total mass of the plastics but made up 94 per cent of the estimated 1.8 trillion pieces floating in the area.

The researchers observed that common packaging plastics polyethylene and polypropylene were among some of the only types of debris thick enough to remain buoyant and remain in the zone.

While most of the larger items had broken down into fragments, researchers were able to identify containers, bottles, lids, packaging straps, and ropes. Some items in the test still had a readable production date, with one of the earliest being from 1977.

Aerial imaging and 652 net tows were used to capture the data. The differences between the estimates could be attributed to better technology allowing for a more accurate measurement, or an increasing level in ocean pollution in the areas following the 2011 Tohoku tsunami.

The report’s authors caution that more research is needed to quantify sources of ocean plastics in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and to better assess how long plastics stay in the area.