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Unilever to go further green

Consumer products giant Unilever has announced plans to source all of the carbon-based materials in its cleaning and laundry products from renewable or recycled sources, thus throwing down the gauntlet to chemical suppliers.  According to Unilever, this will cut the carbon footprint of its product formulations by up to 20%, since the chemicals it uses in cleaning and account for 46% – of that footprint. The company’s most famous brands include Persil, Omo, Domestos, Cif and Sunlight.

The move is part of the Home Care division’s ‘Clean Future’ programme, which seeks to change the manufacture and packaging of its products as it moves to net zero emissions and eliminating fossil fuel use in its products by 2039. As part of this, €1 billion has been set aside to fund biotechnology research, CO2 and waste utilisation and low carbon chemistry, by, among other things, developing biodegradable and water-efficient product formulations.

The decision was hailed by Evonik Industries, which is already working with Unilever in Slovakia to produce renewable and biodegradable rhamnolipid surfactants via fermentation. Unilever uses these in Sunlight dishwashing liquid in Chile and Vietnam and plans to use them more widely. It describes this collaboration as a key pillar of Clean Future.

The rhamnolipids Evonik makes are said to “generate exceptional foam-forming properties and cleaning outcomes for household cleaning products while being 100% biodegradable”. Producing them at industrial scale was the result of a long-term R&D project between Creavis, Evonik’s strategic innovation unit, and the Nutrition & Care division.

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