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In a major breakthrough for the packaging industry, Unilever has unleashed a newly developed packaging technology that uses 15% less plastic than current existing processes.

The newly developed MuCell® Technology will first feature in Dove Body Wash bottles in Europe, saving up to 275 tons of plastic a year. Unilever intends to widen the availability of this technology to be used more broadly across the industry.

The new technology represents another substantial contribution to the target set out in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan to halve waste footprint by 2020.

The MuCell® Technology for Extrusion Blow Molding (EBM) was created in close collaboration with two of Unilever’s global packaging suppliers, ALPLA and MuCell Extrusion. It represents a breakthrough in bottle technology: by using gas-injection to create gas bubbles in the middle layer of the bottle wall, it reduces the density of the bottle and the amount of plastic required.

The technology will be deployed first in Europe across the Dove Body Wash range, before rolling the technology out. With up to 33 million Dove Body Wash bottles sold across Europe in 2013, the new technology stands to save up to 275 tons of plastic a year; whereas a full roll-out across every Unilever product and packaging format could save up to 27,000 tons of plastic and contribute significantly to the target set out in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan to halve waste footprint by 2020.

According to the Unilever Sustainable Living Report 2013 that will enter publication on April 28, 2014, Unilever’s total footprint from packaging waste to landfill has reduced (-11%) as a result of efficient pack designs and the disposal of sauce brands with large waste footprints. All packaging with this technology will remain 100% recyclable.

Unilever will waive specific exclusivity rights by January 2015 so that other manufacturers can start to use the technology across their brands and products. Paul Howells, Vice President R&D Packaging at Unilever explains:

“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.”

Mark Lindenfelzer, President of MuCell Extrusion LLC, said that, “MuCell® Technology is an exciting innovation. Whilst consumers won’t see any difference in the bottles, the impact on the environment will be very real. We’re delighted to be part of this development and believe that it marks a real shift for manufacturers who want to behave responsibly.”

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Filed Under: Innovation

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