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Achieving waste free

Article was originally published on 21/05/2021 on unilever.com

The name ekaterra translates as ‘one earth’: when we launched in 2021, we chose this to underline our commitment to the planet. And our belief that because there is only one earth, we need to do our best to protect it.

As the biggest tea company in the world, what we do generates waste. What’s important is understanding that doesn’t have to be bad.

By making sustainable choices, we can have a positive net effect on the world.

Not only can we cut down our waste: we can make sure that where there is waste, it goes back to help nature – either by nourishing the soil, being reused or recycled, or helping to generate ‘climate positive’ energy.

Here are a few things we’re committed to:

1. Plant-based teabags by 2025

  • We’re making sure all our teabags will be entirely plant-based by 2025. We’ve made good inroads on this already, but in some places petroleum-based bags are still in use. We’ll soon be switching to materials that come from renewable and plant-based sources such as wood and corn (PLA- Polylactic Acid).

  • We’ll work with partners throughout the tea industry to make this happen on a worldwide scale.

2. Packaging that’s 100% recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025

  • Most people want to recycle – but there isn’t always a straightforward way to do it. So as well as making sure all of our packaging is made of recyclable materials, we’ll also be working with industry and local authorities to improve waste collection and recycling infrastructure throughout the world.

  • On top of this ambition, we've already started developing and testing food-grade recycled materials which we plan to launch by 2030, so that at least half our portfolio is made from food-grade recycled materials by then.

  • In what could turn out to be the biggest change of all, we’ll be launching refillable packaging by 2030. This will really mark a shopping revolution – moving away from the ‘one use’ model favoured throughout most of the 20th century to a circular, use-again approach. Look out for the launch of our prototypes, with iconic, eco-friendly styling.

3. No waste to landfill by 2030

  • Energy is used to grow and create things. Every leaf, every teabag, every carton, every bottle – they’ve all needed energy to come into being. So when anything ends up in landfill, that’s a waste of energy. Literally.

  • By 2030, we’re going to make sure none of our waste ends up in landfill. We’re already working with our partners on new and disruptive technologies that simply don’t generate waste.

  • And wherever waste can’t be recycled through lack of infrastructure, we’ll switch to upcycling – giving communities in those markets opportunities to make a living as part of the ekaterra ecosystem.

  • In our own factories, we’ve already achieved ‘zero to landfill’. We’re helping our third-party suppliers do the same too.

What people and businesses have typically thrown away doesn’t usually seem that exciting. But it gets exciting when you realise ‘waste’ is a chance for renewal.

That’s why we place such a strong emphasis on reaching ‘waste free’.

It’s our duty to make sure the packaging and waste we generate has an ethical end – and is fully recycled, reused, composted or upcycled.