Unilever has signed a three-year collaboration agreement with French resource management firm Veolia to jointly improve waste collection and recycling infrastructure across jurisdictions to lead to sustainable packaging.

The partnership will focus on creating a circular economy for plastics waste in various countries, starting with India and Indonesia.

Unilever and Veolia will work on emerging technologies that will enable the creation of a circular economy.

Based on data released by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, only 14% of the plastic packaging used across the world is collected for recycling after use, while 40% ends up in landfills and around 33% in fragile ecosystems.

The agreement is in line with Unilever’s pledge made last year to ensure that all its plastic packaging will be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

The company’s sustainability target also includes increasing the amount of recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25% by 2025.

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Unilever chief supply chain officer Marc Engel said: “The scale of the plastic waste issue is getting worse, not better, with the production of plastics expected to double over the next two decades.

“We hope that by partnering with Veolia, a world leader in waste management, we can take meaningful strides towards a circular economy.”

“We all have a lot more to do to address this critical issue and we hope that by partnering with Veolia, a world leader in waste management, we can take meaningful strides towards a circular economy.”

The company emphasised that strong measures need to be taken across the value chain to enhance collection and reprocessing infrastructure.

The partners will mainly focus on material collection, which they believe is key to bringing back recycled content into the value chain.

Work under the collaboration will also include implementation of used packaging collection solutions, the addition of recycling capacity, as well as the development of new business models in various countries.

Veolia Development, Innovation and Markets senior executive vice-president Laurent Auguste said: “There is an undeniable need to transform the current way plastic packaging end of life is managed in order to reduce significantly its environmental footprint.

“With this global partnership, Veolia and Unilever join forces in various geographies around the globe and, from the collection to the recycling, take a leadership role to redefine a responsible and sustainable future for packaging.”