The plastic-free concept that could replace single-use sachets

This article was originally published by Unilever.

Unilever is investing €100,000 in a crowdsourced concept that provides a low-cost alternative to single-use laundry sachets, and is completely free from plastic.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The plastic-free compressed laundry tablet dissolves in water and has a low-cost plant-derived coating to protect against humidity is designed to replace the billions of detergent sachets sold across the developing world. While sachets are a popular and affordable format for low-income consumers, they’re problematic in terms of plastic waste.

The tablet was one of ten brilliant ideas to emerge from the Rethink Plastic Hackathon, hosted by Unilever in London at the end of November. The event was set up in partnership with One Young World, the leading forum to support young leaders in achieving positive change, and A Plastic Planet, a campaign which aims to inspire the world to turn off the plastic tap.


The Hackathon challenged leading designers, innovators and packaging experts to come up with solutions to tackle the issue of plastic waste. The panel of judges included representatives from Unilever, One Young World, A Plastic Planet and Sky Ocean Ventures, along with a National Geographic fellow and top industry experts who acted as mentors throughout the day.

Other highly commended concepts from the event included a refill subscription model offering beautiful ceramic or glass storage bottles for household products, and ‘laundry on a roll’ dissolvable sheets of fabric detergent which are both convenient and environmentally friendly.


Unilever’s R&D teams are now looking at how to develop the winning idea further, before trialling it in a suitable market.

All the ideas developed by participants – including the compressed tablet – are open-source, meaning they’re not exclusive to Unilever. In fact, we’re keen to share the ideas to help scale up the impact they may have and maximise potential market opportunities.

“Addressing this issue is the shared responsibility of all stakeholders in the value chain. However, as a major player in the consumer goods industry, we are aware that our response is critical in setting the pace of change,” says Kees Kruythoff, President of Unilever Home Care.

“This is part of our broader work with leading experts and innovators to redesign our packaging and work with the wider industry to accelerate the systemic change that is so urgently needed.”

Commenting on the Hackathon, Kate Robertson, Co-founder of One Young World said: “The impact of plastic waste on our planet is disastrous; we need to highlight the importance of creating plastic-free solutions that can be replicated across industries and markets. This hackathon is a great example of where innovative young leaders are able to showcase their abilities in bringing solutions to the table and utilising the power businesses hold in implementing change. I am really excited by the plastic free laundry detergent, along with all of the ideas from this Hackathon.” 

Sian Sutherland, Co-founder of A Plastic Planet, adds: “The fact that a huge multinational like Unilever is taking the issue of plastic pollution and solutions seriously is a strong message to all industry worldwide. Those businesses that do not seek to change and reduce their plastic usage will not survive.”

Finding and investing in solutions to reduce plastic packaging is just one of the initiatives we’re taking to reduce our plastic footprint globally.

In 2017, Unilever made an industry-leading commitment to ensure that all our plastic packaging will be designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. We also committed to increase the recycled plastic content in our packaging to at least 25% by 2025. These targets are driving real change in the business – in particular how packaging is designed for recyclability and reuse.

Watch a film about the Hackathon: