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Unilever Japan and Kao Launch a Collaborative Plastic Recycling Program

A Forward-Thinking Program Aimed at Realizing a Circular Economy for Plastic by Collecting Used Product Packaging and Making New Bottles from Used Bottles in Higashi-Yamato City, Tokyo

TOKYO, May 17, 2021 — Unilever Japan and Kao Corporation will launch a collaborative recycling program to help create a circular economy for plastic packaging. Starting from June 1, 2021, the companies will collect used bottles of personal and home care products in Higashi-Yamato City, Tokyo, which will then be recycled to make new bottles. This city, which has signed a collaborative agreement with Unilever Japan, has been chosen due to its renowned recycling initiatives.

As a part of its growth strategy Unilever Compass, Unilever aims to help creating a waste-free world. By 2025, the company is aiming to halve its use of virgin plastic and help collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells. Since 2019, Unilever Japan has been using recycled plastic in its product packaging including LUX, Dove, and CLEAR. In addition, Unilever Japan launched the UMILE Program in November 2020, where used packaging is collected at retail stores, and then recycled to make novelties that are then given back to consumers to support sustainable living.

In April 2019, Kao launched its new ESG strategy—the Kirei Lifestyle Plan—which helps reduce the impact on the environment throughout the product lifecycle of its range of products. The Japanese word 'kirei' describes something that is both clean and beautiful. For Kao, Kirei not only encapsulates appearance, but also attitude—to create beauty for oneself, other people, and for the world around us. With this in mind, Kao is striving to reduce the amount of plastic used to make packaging, with the adoption of the 4Rs: Reduce, Replace, Reuse, and Recycle. In September 2019, Kao announced that it was aiming to help realize a plastic resource circulating society through "Innovation in Reduction" and "Innovation in Recycling."

Unilever Japan and Kao have been promoting plastic resource circulation by winning the support of a wide variety of stakeholders, including consumers, retailers, recycling firms, and local governments. However, in Japan, most plastic packaging is not recycled to create new packaging. This is due to various reasons, such as the varying types of plastic used for personal and home care products depending on the manufacturer, the lack of existing infrastructures to sort and collect used plastic packaging by material type, and the lack of recycling technology that can prevent degradation in plastic material quality when recycling.

In response, Unilever Japan and Kao are exploring methods to sort and collect used plastic packaging in a way that makes it easy for consumers to participate while still being commercially sustainable. The companies are also contributing toward the formulation of guidelines for personal and home care product packaging that are based on the know-how acquired through the program and which can be shared and utilized by different companies in different industries.

As members of the Japan Clean Ocean Material Alliance (CLOMA)* , Unilever Japan and Kao hope to win the understanding and collaboration of a wide range of stakeholders. They are also aiming to share the learnings from the program to other countries and regions, including the guideline for product packaging, and as a new solution to help realize a circular economy.

  • * CLOMA is a platform aimed at solving plastic waste in the oceans by strengthening cross-industry collaboration among a wide range of stakeholders and by accelerating innovation.

Program Overview

■ Purpose
1. Exploring methods for the separated collection and recycling of personal and home care product packaging through collaboration with consumers, local government, and business enterprises 2. Verifying horizontal recycling technologies that can make new bottles from used bottles of personal and home care products

● Implementation period:
Starting from June 1, 2021

● Content:
Collection boxes are being installed at 10 locations within Higashi-Yamato City, Tokyo, for the collection of used packaging that have been washed and dried after their use by households. The collected packaging is then delivered to Veolia Jenets K.K., a leading company in waste management and recycling, where the packaging are sorted, washed and processed, and used in verification testing of horizontal recycling technology for transforming used bottles into new bottles.


Collection box design for used packaging

About Unilever

Unilever is one of the world's leading suppliers of Beauty & Personal Care, Home Care, and Foods & Refreshment products, with sales in over 190 countries and products used by 2.5 billion people every day. We have 149,000 employees and generated sales of €50.7 billion in 2020. Our vision is to be the global leader in sustainable business and to demonstrate how our purpose-led, future-fit business model drives superior performance. The Unilever Compass, our sustainable business strategy, is set out to help us deliver superior performance and drive sustainable and responsible growth, while improving the health of the planet; improving people's health, confidence and wellbeing; and contributing to a fairer and more socially inclusive world. We serve consumers in Japan for over 50 years with brands including Lux, Dove, Clear, AXE, and Lipton. For more information, please visit

About Kao

Kao creates high-value-added products that enrich the lives of consumers around the world. Through its portfolio of over 20 leading brands such as Attack, Bioré, Goldwell, Jergens, John Frieda, Kanebo, Laurier, Merries, and Molton Brown, Kao is part of the everyday lives of people in Asia, Oceania, North America, and Europe. Combined with its chemical division, which contributes to a wide range of industries, Kao generates about 1,400 billion yen in annual sales. Kao employs about 33,000 people worldwide and has 130 years of history in innovation. Please visit the Kao Group website for updated information.

Initiatives for Kao's ESG Strategy, the Kirei Lifestyle Plan and plastic circularity in society

Recognizing its responsibility as an enterprise that provides products which people use on a regular basis in their daily lives, the Kao Group takes active steps to reduce the environmental footprint of its products throughout the entirety of the product lifecycle. In April 2019, Kao launched the Kirei Lifestyle Plan, its ESG (environmental, social and governance) strategy, which incorporates 19 key leadership actions. Kao's purpose is to create a Kirei life for all. The Japanese word 'kirei' describes something that is both clean and beautiful. For Kao, Kirei not only encapsulates appearance, but also attitude—to create beauty for oneself, other people, and for the world around us. The Kirei Lifestyle Plan aims to integrate ESG as the foundation of its management to accelerate business growth and create products and services of better value for consumers and society

Regarding the issue of plastic waste, which is a significant problem for society, in 2018, Kao announced its "Our Philosophy & Action on Plastic Packaging" declaration, and are abiding by the 4Rs: Reduce, Replace, Reuse, Recycle. We are substantially reducing the amount of plastic used in our packaging, by making them thinner, reusable, refillable, and reduced in volume, as well as improving our liquid concentration. We are also developing packaging that is easier to recycle. Plus, we will make efforts to switch away from fossil fuel-based plastics toward the use of sustainable materials. In  September 2019, Kao announced that it would be focusing on Innovation in Reduction and Innovation in Recycling, so as to help realize a society characterized by effective plastic resource circulation.

In the future, the Kao Group will continue to implement its unique ESG activities globally, so as to deliver satisfaction and enriched lives for people around the world, and contribute to the sustainability of society.


Media inquiries should be directed to:

Corporate Strategy
Kao Corporation

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