Consumer goods giant Unilever is planning to develop and pilot a plastic-free laundry tablet as part of its bid to “rethink plastics”.
The manufacturer of leading household brands including Persil, CIF and Domestos, said it would invest €100,000 in the new crowdsourced innovation to replace single-use sachets of laundry powder.
The idea was one of 10 new solutions which emerged from Unilever’s “rethink plastic” hackathon on 28 Nov, a one-day event that brought together Unilever teams with designers, innovators, venture capital and packaging experts.
The tablets are particularly designed to replace single-use laundry sachets used to provide an affordable solution for low-income consumers in developing markets.
Unilever laundry products are offered in the shape of pods, loose powder or liquid in developed countries.
The winning concept envisages “an affordable plant-derived coating” that protects each tablet against humidity. This will eliminate using plastic packaging in the first place.
The tablet will be further developed before being trialled in a suitable market.
Other interesting solutions presented at the event included a detergent subscription model using attractive ceramic or glass bottles and ‘laundry on a roll’ dissolvable sheets of fabric detergent that are convenient and environmentally friendly.
Unilever said its teams will further explore all ideas submitted on the day.
“The scale of the plastic waste issue is getting worse, not better, with the production of plastics expected to double over the next decade…. As a major player in the consumer goods industry, we are aware that our response is critical in setting the pace of change,” said Kees Kruythoff, president of Unilever Home Care.
The hackathon, said Kruythoff, is part of Unilever’s broader work with leading experts and innovators to redesign its packaging.
The investment is the latest in a series of efforts taken by Unilever to reduce its plastic footprint globally.
In 2017, the company made a commitment to ensure that all its plastic packaging will be designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
The company also committed to increase the recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25% by 2025.
In the UK, Unilever is a signatory to the UK Plastic Pact, a unique pact between governments, businesses, local authorities, NGOs and citizens to tackle plastic waste and transform the UK’s plastics system.