Building a better, safer world with Unilever's Zero Waste to Nature program

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Unilever’s plastic collection program was able to recover over 300 metric tons of waste upcycled into school chairs.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Philippines has often been placed atop the rankings of countries contributing to pollution globally.

In November, Manila was named among the least sustainable cities in the world by Amsterdam-based consultancy firm Arcadis Design and Consultancy for Natural and Built Assets.

Earlier this year, the country was also identified by an international environment group as the third worst polluter of the world's oceans, and has one of the largest trash collection rates in Southeast Asia. 

One significant contributor to the Philippines' waste is the country's large plastic consumption. 

While the product has its own benefits — cheap, light, and relatively easy to produce — it still accounts for 10 percent of all the waste the Philippines generates. 

Of this statistic, about 50 percent is single-use or disposable plastic.

As this environmental issue continues to hound the country, several advocates have been pushing for the #ZeroWaste movement that encourages Filipinos to avoid utilizing single-use plastic. 

Consumer goods company Unilever has a comprehensive Zero Waste to Nature program with a special focus on packaging waste.

"The program is quite ambitious. The fact that we're saying zero waste, it means the intent really is not to have any of our plastic waste going to the wrong channels like water streams," said Unilever Vice President for Sustainable Business and Communications Unilever Philippines Ed Sunico. 

"We have to make sure that we have a lot of collaborations happening," he added.


Unilever has pledged to have all of its packaging reusable, recyclable and compostable by 2025.

Other Unilever programs intended to address the issue of packaging waste include a community-based sachet recovery program, office and factory solid waste management programs, packaging innovations, as well as collaboration with industry coalitions.

An example of this is the Surf Misis Walastik Program, which helps collect post-consumer sachet waste in communities across Metro Manila through a product exchange incentive program. 

Following an educational and awareness campaign in partnership with barangay and community leaders, flexible plastics like wrappers, pouches, or sachets are collected, and subsequently recycled and converted into school chairs. These school chairs are then donated to public schools around the metro. 

"This particular program is focused on collection — what we want to find out is the most viable way by which our households will start to consider and start to segregate," Sunico said of the program.

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