PCR = “vaccine” of the circular economy?

PCR = “vaccine” of the circular economy?

Thomas Reiner | 30.06.2021

Unilever is switching the “Squeezy” range of its Hellmann’s food brand in the UK to bottles made from 100% post-consumer recycled PET. The step is also a real benchmark in terms of volume. And it makes it clear that the pure focus on recyclability is a thing of the past. The use of recyclate is gaining importance as a logical second step. No cycle without the use of recyclate: PCR is becoming the “vaccine” of the Circular Economy.


For a long time, recyclability was the main heading on the path to circular economy. However, the circle can only be closed if the recyclate is used again. The fact that Unilever is now taking this step is a strong sign. The use of recycled material is no longer just a small game for niches.

The Hellmann’s condiment brand is strategically and quantitatively relevant in Unilever’s portfolio. In the mayonnaise segment, the brand is one of the biggest. The switch to bottles made from 100% post-consumer recycled PET will therefore make waves – even if it only affects the market in the UK for the time being.


Facts about the rPET move

  • With its rPET bottles, the Hellmann brand is one of the first food brands in the UK to use 100% post-consumer recycled plastic.
  • At 40%, Unilever has already converted almost half of the Squeezy range to recycled plastic and sent it to shelves by April 2021. The conversion is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
  • According to the company, the complete conversion will save around 1,480 tonnes of virgin plastic per year.
  • Increasing the use of recycled plastic is an essential part of Unilever’s wider global packaging commitments. By 2025, all packaging should be reusable, recyclable or compostable.
  • The Hellmann’s Squeezy project in the UK also serves as an important knowledge generator for the company. The experience gained is intended to accelerate the switch of other Unilever food brands to recycled packaging.


PCR as a vaccine
Hellmann’s is a flagship in Unilever’s portfolio. So the switch to packaging made from 100% PCR is a real head-turner. The move will have major consequences, not only for the company but for the market as a whole. It is becoming clear that recyclability is no longer enough. The use of recyclates as a logical second step is becoming increasingly important. Good thing! Because only by using recycled material can we close the loop on plastics. The use of PCR could become a vaccine here.

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