Unilever Urges Consumers to Rethink Recycling and Fight ‘Bottle Bias’

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Unilever #RethinkRecycling 2016 Dove Men+Care

With Earth Day looming on April 22nd and climate change top of mind, Unilever USA is kicking off a sustainability campaign to encourage Americans to rethink recycling — and to not treat some household products as not recycling-worthy.

The consumer packaged goods’ giant this week released new research finding that when it comes to recycling, soda bottles and shampoo bottles are not treated equally. Only 14% of Americans recycle bathroom bottles and containers, while more than half of American households are recycling their kitchen items. That is why Unilever is reprising its “Rinse.Recycle.Reimagine.” campaign, which is designed to rally Americans to reassess their recycling habits and treat bathroom empties – such as Unilever’s Simple®, Dove®, Suave® and other brands – with the same respect as their kitchen counterparts.

“When it comes to household recycling, we want people to realize that how they dispose of empty bottles in the bathroom is just as important as how they dispose of empty bottles in the kitchen. We are inviting consumers to #RethinkRecycling by putting their empty bathroom bottles in the bin just as often as their kitchen empties, because if we each make small changes, we can create a brighter future for all,” said Julie Zaniewski, Packaging Sustainability Manager at Unilever.

Uilever Rethink Recycling 2016

“We are inviting consumers to #RethinkRecycling by putting their empty bathroom bottles in the bin just as often as their kitchen empties and we’re doing this through engaging, socially-driven content aimed at educating Americans on how empty bath and beauty bottles are equally recyclable as their kitchen counterparts,” added Lauren Harper, Unilever US Director, Sustainable Living & Unilever Brand. “Using attention-grabbing imagery our Unilever bottles will take a stand – and take up picket signs — to demand equality in recycling.”

How to make consumers treat empty bottles equally, and not make bath and beauty bottles second class citizens? The #RethinkRecycling campaign is aimed at first and foremost raising awareness of the gap in recycling habits, or “bottle bias,” that exists in American homes.

Unilever Suave Rethink Recycling

Additionally, in partnership with Keep America Beautiful, Unilever will be creating coats for kids, school supplies or playgrounds from recycled plastics to help showcase all the amazing things recycled bottles can become, such as turning shampoo bottles into coats.

Social Marketing: In a playful nod to the election year, Unilever will be asking Americans to vote on Twitter for which of these items the recycled plastics should come back as. Fans can follow @UnileverUSA to learn more and nominate their reimagined recyclable.

Using attention-grabbing imagery Unilever bottles will take a stand – and take up picket signs – to demand equality in recycling. And to spread the word and encourage Americans to rethink recycling on a large scale, Unilever is rallying a team of influential voices to stand up for the forgotten bathroom bottles, including actresses Candace Cameron Burr, Tia Mowry and Alyssa Milano and bloggers.

This marks the second year in a row for the Unilever Rinse.Recycle.Reimagine. program, which began as an extension of Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council’s “I Want To Be Recycled” national communications campaign, created pro bono by San Francisco-based ad agency Pereira & O’Dell and funded by Unilever.

To learn more about the Unilever efforts in inspiring people to #RethinkRecycling in the United States, and how you can help make a change visit brightfuture.unilever.us.

Unilever Dove rethink recycling

Recycling, Not Just a Social Mission for Unilever

The program is part of the Unilever brightFuture initiative in support of Unilever’s purpose-driven business model, the Unilever Sustainability Plan (USLP), which aims to increase its positive social impact while reducing its environmental impact.

While many of Unilever’s bath and beauty products are packaged in recycled material, Unilever has set an aggressive goal to increase the recycled material content in its packaging to maximum possible levels by the year 2020. However, there is currently not enough recycled plastic resin available to do so.

Unilever Pond's rethink recycling

In order to help change this, Unilever is taking steps such as:

• Teaming up with leading experts and organizations like the Closed Loop Fund, through which Unilever is working to address the root causes of low recycling rates – as well as Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council to continue to increase recycling awareness.
• Implementing more sustainable operations throughout the company’s supply chain for more efficient production, while evolving product packaging to be designed with less materials.
• Sharing knowledge and innovations with other organizations and corporations to encourage a shift not only at Unilever, but industry-wide.

What UL has done to shift packaging designs

At the corporate level:
• As of May 2015, more than 55% of Unilever’s agricultural raw materials are now sustainably sourced, reducing the risk to supply (UL is more than halfway to its 2020 target of 100%).
• In 2014, Unilever achieved sending zero waste from our dedicated warehouses to landfill in the United States. This resulted in $1.9M in savings and was the continuation of progress achieved in 2013 of sending zero waste to landfill from our manufacturing and headquarters locations.

At the product level
Delta Shower Heads: UL partnered with Delta Faucet Company to make sustainable living simple – not a trade-off – by offering a showerhead that saves water without having to sacrifice the temperatures and pressures that consumers enjoy. The Hydrafall showerhead, using H2Okinetic® technology, delivers 2.0 gallons of water per minute in a format that actually feels like 2.5 gallons per minute.
Hellmann’s squeeze bottle: UL’s Hellmann’s brand created a new-and-improved squeeze bottle designed to squeeze more out with less waste, less mess and more control, with a precision tip and clean-lock cap. This new bottle was created in response to research the company conducted showing that in 2014, Americans missed out on more than 1,000 pounds of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, which was trapped inside squeeze bottles. That’s 38,400 savory bites of 32,000 BLTs that was lost (at an average of 12 bites per BLT sandwich). (2015)
Dove: Redesigned 34 oz. body wash bottle to optimize the design using a stronger bi-modal HDPE resin, reducing bottle weights by 15%. (2014)
Lipton Tea: Overhauled packaging to remove individual envelopes and reduce the carton and case size, resulting in a 7-12% waste reduction on several skus. (2014)
Popsicle: Replaced corrugated cases with lightweight shrink film, reducing packaging waste by 40%. (2014)

What UL is doing to SHOW consumers how to improve recycling habits:
• UL’s overall philosophy for encouraging Americans to improve recycling habits stands that one of the keys to driving change is to make change rewarding.
• The company, along with Free the Children, sponsors events called “We Day” in cities all over the US and sponsors Bright Future Grants to fund kids’ entrepreneurial ideas in support of a sustainable future
Rinse. Recycle. Reimagine. campaign — In April 2015, Unilever, in partnership with Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council, launched “Rinse. Recycle. Reimagine,” a campaign designed to educate people about recycling in the bathroom, inspire them to reimagine what empty bathroom products could become through recycling and ultimately make small changes that hold big potential to positively impact the environment.

Unilever Rinse Recycle Imagine

In 2016, Unilever is bringing back its Rinse. Recycle. Reimagine. campaign with an evolved focus on promoting equal treatment of all household recyclables. The campaign will feature engaging, socially-driven content aimed at educating Americans on how empty bath and beauty bottles are equally recyclable as their kitchen counterparts. Using attention-grabbing imagery Unilever bottles will take a stand – and take up picket signs – to demand equality in recycling. Leaning into cultural symbols, and with a playful nod to the election year, Unilever will also be asking Americans to help vote for what recycled plastics can become. To spread the word and encourage Americans to rethink recycling on a large scale, Unilever is also rallying a team of influential voices to stand up for the forgotten bathroom bottles, led by actress and talk show host, Candace Cameron Burr.

UN Global Goals: In September 2015, UL’s CEO Paul Polman served as a member of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel that shaped its Global Goals, developed to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda for the next 15 years. Unilever is now working with Project Everyone and Global Citizen to raise awareness and inspire action in support of the goals all around the world, a truly ambitious undertaking that has united some of the most inspiring and influential voices from around the world. Polman often advocates for businesses to join the effort to achieve the Goals.

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