Trade Resources Industry Views EBM Uses Gas-Injection to Create Gas Bubbles in The Middle Layer of The Bottle Wall

EBM Uses Gas-Injection to Create Gas Bubbles in The Middle Layer of The Bottle Wall

MuCelltechnology for extrusion blow moulding (EBM) uses gas-injection to create gas bubbles in the middle layer of the bottle wall. This reduces the density of the bottle and the amount of plastic required, while maintaining 100% recyclability.

The new process, developed by Unilever's collaborating with two of its global suppliers, ALPLA and MuCell Extrusion, will be used first in Europe across the Dove Body Wash range before a global roll-out. Unilever sold 33 million Dove Body Wash bottles throughout Europe in 2013. The new technology could therefore save up to 275 tons of plastic per year in Europe alone. A full roll-out across every Unilever product and packaging format could save up to 27,000 tons of plastic. Unilever will waive specific exclusivity rights by January 2015 so that other manufacturers can use the technology.

This move makes a significant contribution to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan to halve Unilever's waste footprint by 2020, despite growing the business significantly. According to Unilever, its upcoming Sustainable Living Report 2013, due later this month, will confirm that its total footprint from packaging waste to landfill has decreased 11% as a result of efficient pack designs and the disposal of sauce brands with large waste footprints.

By the beginning of April this year, all of Unilever's European factories had joined those in North America in achieving zero non-hazardous waste to landfill. When added to similar achievements in countries from Argentina to Indonesia, this meant that more than three-quarters of the company's global factory network no longer sends this kind of waste to landfill, a 20% improvement from just three years ago.

Achieving zero non-hazardous waste from factories is a key element of the Sustainable Living Plan. Unilever says the achievement to date has been made possible with minimal need for capital expenditure and has avoided cumulative disposal costs of more than €17 million (AU$25.2 million).

"We have seen a rapid acceleration in converting the network to zero waste. In 2010, 52 sites were there. We have now reached 200 sites," said Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Unilever's chief supply chain officer. "We are on track to hit our revised target of 100% of sites by 2015, five years ahead of the original 2020 target."

Paul Howells, vice president R&D Packaging at Unilever said, "We're always on the search for new technologies that can help us achieve our ambition to build a more sustainable business and halve our environmental footprint, and working with our two partners, we've created a unique technology that will transform our portfolio. But there's only so much that Unilever can achieve on our own; and by opening up access to other manufacturers we will really start to see an impact. We very much hope that our peers in the industry will take advantage of this technology too and apply it to their products."

"MuCellTechnology is an exciting innovation. While consumers won't see any difference in the bottles, the impact on the environment will be very real," Mark Lindenfelzer, president of MuCell Extrusion, added, "We're delighted to be part of this development and believe that it marks a real shift for manufacturers who want to behave responsibly."

Social and environmental responsibility has moved quickly from an add-on to an imperative in business. Unilever's efforts do not stand in isolation. In October 2013, P&G launched a new process to mould plastic that creates up to 75% thinner packaging than the current industry standard according to its report, and could save P&G AU$1.1 billion a year by using less plastic and different raw materials. The process makes it easier to use recycled resins or plant-based alternatives to petrochemicals and will help make packages more recyclable. P&G plans to use the material for its own products and has stated that it may also sell it to other marketers from non-competitive package goods players to automotive giants.

And last week, Colgate-Palmolive committed to making 100% of its packaging for three of its four product categories completely recyclable by 2020, and develop a recyclable toothpaste tube or package, which would achieve almost the same sustainability standard for its fourth product category.

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