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Unilever creates world-first paper detergent bottle

Unilever has used new Pulpex technology to develop the first-ever paper-based laundry detergent bottle, which is made of sustainably sourced pulp and designed to be recycled in standard paper waste streams.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of products on the planet and are making purchasing choices based on sustainability factors, including packaging and its sustainability.

With this in mind, Unilever says it is placing high importance on delivering functionally superior products that address environmental issues that people care about.

A prototype paper-based bottle is currently being developed for Unilever’s OMO brand (which is called persil, Skip or breeze, depending on which market it’s sold in), and is set to debut in Brazil by early 2022. The new technology has been developed in partnership with the Pulpex consortium, which is a collaboration between Unilever, Diageo, Pilot Lite, PepsiCo and GSK Consumer Healthcare.

Unilever says the ability to package liquid products in paper-based bottles will be a huge achievement, but before such a bottle hits the shelves, it will be tested against its performance in real-life situations, such as transportation or storage in damp environments.

The paper-based bottles are sprayed inside with a proprietary coating that repels water, enabling the material to hold liquid products like laundry detergent, shampoo and conditioners, which contain surfactants, fragrances and other active ingredients.

While creating recyclable, paper-based packaging without additional plastic layers is a massive challenge, Unilever claims the Pulpex solution offers a “promising way to radically reduce plastic use in line with commitments to a waste-free world”.

“To tackle plastic waste, we need to completely rethink how we design and package products,” says Richard Slater, Unilever’s chief R&D officer.

“This requires a drastic change that can only be achieved through industry-wide collaboration. Pulpex paper bottle technology is an exciting step in the right direction, and we are delighted to be working together to trial this innovation for our products.

“Innovating with alternative materials is a key part of our sustainable packaging strategy and will play an important role in our commitment to halve our use of virgin plastic materials by 2025.”

The company is also piloting the same technology to create paper-based hair care bottles.

The recent development forms part of Unilever’s 2020 commitment to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in its cleaning and laundry products by 2030. Unilever has also committed to halving virgin plastic use by 2025 and aiming for net zero carbon emissions from all its products by 2039.