Years ago, when I worked with Unilever and other companies on sustainability issues, recycling got no respect. It was seen as something that you did if you could but energy efficiency, carbon reduction, pollution prevention, conservation, remanufacturing and so forth were seen as more strategic.
Not anymore. From concern about “branded litter” to the recognition of the systemic impact of recycling, more and more brands are going the extra mile to make sure they get their packaging, containers and products back, and put them to good use.
Unilever Ghana is the largest producer and retailer of consumer goods in Ghana. Unilever’s factory in Tema is supporting a recycling initiative that puts waste to good use as flower pots and jewelry and creates income for the local people. Plastic waste is growing in many parts of the world as people increasingly buy products made from or packaged in plastic. The durability of plastic can go from a negative in the environment to a positive factor in turning waste into durable products.
Unilever sponsored a national forum on plastic waste, and jewelry made from waste plastic was featured at the forum. A nonprofit, The Centre for the Development of People, encourages groups of women to collect plastic waste and put it to good use. The plastic is cleaned, re-melted and colored, and then wrapped around straw to make jewelry beads. Selling the repurposed plastic provides vital income for the women.
Unilever is also providing over 21 tons of waste plastic to small businesses in Accra where it’s made into plastic products like flower pots and sold by people who would otherwise be unemployed. Unilever is working with industry and government in Ghana on expanding this initiative and slashing the amount of plastic waste landfilled. Not only good for the environment of Ghana, but for the people and villages as well.