Unilever is using a new technology to launch the first ever paper-based laundry detergent bottle. A prototype has been developed for leading laundry brand OMO (also known as Persil, Skip and Breeze) and is set to debut in Brazil by early 2022, with an ambition for roll-out in Europe and other countries soon after. Unilever is also piloting the same technology to create paper-based hair care bottles.

This ground-breaking technology has been developed in partnership with the Pulpex consortium, a collaboration between Unilever, Diageo, Pilot Lite and other industry members. Unilever has been able to use the technology to package liquid products in first-of-its-kind paper-based bottles, made of sustainably sourced pulp and designed to be recycled in the paper waste stream.

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

Creating recyclable, paper-based packaging without additional plastic layers is a huge challenge. Pulpex’s patented pulp packaging provides a promising solution to radically reduce the use of plastic and will help Unilever achieve its commitments to a waste-free world.

Richard Slater, Unilever Chief R&D Officer, said: “To tackle plastic waste, we need to completely rethink how we design and package products. This requires a drastic change that can only be achieved through industry-wide collaboration. Pulpex paper-based 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.”

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of products on the planet and are making purchasing choices based on sustainability factors, including packaging. Delivering functionally superior products that address environmental issues that people care about, such as the innovative sustainable packaging announced today, will make Unilever a stronger, more successful business.

About Unilever

Unilever is transforming its approach to plastic packaging through a ‘Less plastic. Better plastic. No plastic.’ innovation framework.

  • ‘Less plastic’ is about cutting down how much is used in the first place. For example, OMO Concentrate is Unilever’s first dilute-at-home laundry detergent. The six-times concentrate is designed to be poured into a standard 3-litre OMO bottle to dilute with water at home. The concentrated bottle contains 72% less plastic and 50% Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) plastic. It’s not only good for the environment – it’s also better value for the consumer, saving 20-25% per wash compared to the standard OMO offering.
  • ‘Better plastic’ is about making products recyclable, increasing recycled content, and eliminating problematic materials. Our work to use ‘better plastic’ includes Dove’s move to 100% recycled bottles across Europe and North America, Hellmann’s switching to 100% recycled bottles and jars in US and Europe and plans to convert our entire toothpaste portfolio to recyclable tubes by 2025.
  • ‘No plastic’ is about thinking differently – using alternative materials such as aluminium, glass, paper and board where possible and removing plastic where it is not necessary. Seventh Generation has launched a zero-plastic range, while PG Tips is removing the plastic film from boxes in 2021, having already launched fully biodegradable teabags. In Chile, Unilever has partnered with Algramo to deliver a refill model directly to consumers at home, and in the UK the company recently launched its biggest refill trial to date in Europe, in partnership with retailer Asda and sustainability experts Beauty Kitchen.