Plastic pollution has made headlines around the world as advocates call for responsible consumption and disposal.
Around 14 percent of the plastic packaging used globally find their way to recycling plants, while the rest either end up in landfills or in fragile ecosystems such as wildlife habitats.
Every minute, the equivalent of one truck of plastic leaks into streams and rivers, ultimately ending up in the sea as marine debris.
While plastic is durable and preserves product quality, improperly discarded plastic packaging continues to impact the environment, especially waterways.
Unilever Philippines recognizes the need for comprehensive solutions to address this challenge. As one of the leading consumer goods companies, Unilever is introducing initiatives to spur community action toward reducing plastic pollution.
Dubbed "Surf Misis Walastik", the steps are fairly simple: 'Kolek, Kilo, Kita'.
The program incentivizes participating households to segregate their waste properly and collect flexible plastic. Examples of these are unbranded plastic bags, product pouches and sachets, as well as food packs and wrappers.
Through the program, not only do consumers help protect the environment, they also minimize household expenses as they are rewarded with Unilever products in exchange for plastic packaging they no longer need.
For 2018, the company was able to recover more than 300 metric tons of flexible waste from over 250 barangays across Metro Manila.
The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) features environmental protection as a key pillar and is highlighted by the ambition to develop 100 percent recyclable, reusable, compostable packaging by 2025.
This belief and practice begins and is further cultivated in the workplace.
In 2016, Unilever announced that through initiatives to recycle, recover energy, or dispose properly, it has achieved zero non-hazardous waste to landfill across its global factory network. Materials with no current technologies for recycling are properly disposed through accredited partners.
Office-based environmental initiatives have also been key in sustaining a zero waste mindset. One such initiative is the Upcycler Bins from Unilever Philippines.
"We also want our employees to become more aware of their environmental impact. Through the Upcycler bins, we are engaging and empowering our employees to become advocates of responsible waste management," explained Ed Sunico, vice president of Sustainable Business and Communications of Unilever Philippines.
One Upcycler bin can hold approximately 35 plastic bottles per day and as much as 2 to 3 kilos of small sachets per month.
"Our employees are encouraged to bring as much used plastic as they can—whether these are plastic bottles, flexibles, or sachets," added Sunico.
The plastic waste collected through the Misis Walastik Program and Upcycler bins are sent to the Villar SIPAG Foundation, which then upcycles these into plastic chairs donated to public schools.
"We believe that everybody plays a crucial role in environmental responsibility," said Sunico. "Through Surf Misis Walastik, the Upcycler bins and our various USLP initiatives, we hope to encourage communities and businesses to do their part towards a zero-waste Philippines."
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