, - Posted on July 26, 2023

Open Letter: Urgent Appeal to Unilever: Be a Sustainability Leader. Phase Out Plastic Sachets NOW!

117 organisations from 44 countries and territories signed an open letter urging Unilever's new CEO, to quit sachets.

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Dear Mr Schumacher,

(Incoming Chief Executive Officer, Unilever Plc)

Congratulations on your new role as Chief Executive Officer of Unilever. We represent organizations from around the world, writing to you in solidarity with communities from across Asia-Pacific who bear the devastating consequences of Unilever’s sachet-fueled business model, and are urging you to phase out plastic sachets.

Touted as a viable, affordable option for low-income communities, sachets have replaced existing traditional reuse-refill models. Yet from its production to the end of its life, the true cost of sachets has been borne by low-income communities residing in "sacrifice zones" near production/petrochemical facilities, waste pickers who are tasked with recovering these packets, and those living near cement kilns where sachets are burned as fuel. Global opinion polls indicate that people want single-use plastics banned. Sachets, as single-use products, are not a necessity, and communities are willing to transition away if only they were provided a safe alternative.

Unilever has committed to making all plastic packaging, including sachets, reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025. If sachets continue to be a part of Unilever’s business model, your company will fail to meet its New Plastic Economy Global Commitment targets, which could reflect poorly on the company's much-lauded sustainability claims.

Unilever's ex-CEO and executives have openly recognized the problems associated with sachet waste. Mr Jope said, “We have to get rid of them (sachets),” and emphasized, “It's pretty much impossible to mechanically recycle and so it's got no real value.” Hanneke Faber added, “(sachets are) evil because you cannot recycle it.”

Yet instead of implementing effective measures, Unilever has so far pursued questionable solutions, leading to further environmental and health damage. Despite Unilever claiming to support recycling infrastructure, large quantities of collected sachets end up in cement kilns for incineration, a practice that causes air pollution for local communities and produces significant GHG emissions (ref 1, ref 2). This practice is funded and enabled by some subsidiaries as part of their plastic neutrality goals, raising concerns about the company's true commitment to addressing sachet pollution.

Unilever's pursuit of unproven technologies, such as CreaSolv, has also yielded unfavourable results, with the company silently shutting down its pilot facility in Indonesia. Mr Jope acknowledged the challenges associated with the CreaSolv solution, yet Unilever seems committed to more chemical recycling experiments.

Recently, Paul Polman, former Unilever CEO, wrote, “We also made mistakes [...] We sold products in sachets because they’re more affordable for people on lower incomes, and we believed they could be carefully dealt with afterward. But despite our best efforts, and lord knows we tried, packaging this small and with such little value has proved impossible to collect at scale, let alone recycle. We need to get rid of harmful sachets for good.”

As the new leader of a top plastic-polluting corporation, you have the chance to undo decades of harm. Unilever can lead the way so others follow, and show the world that consumer goods can be sold without damaging packaging like sachets. It’s time to make right Unilever’s sustainability commitments by focusing on plastic reduction, quitting sachets and investing in refill-reuse systems as a replacement. 

As you take the helm at Unilever, the signatories of this letter call on you to also take the lead in correcting the historic wrongs in Unilever’s single-use sachet business model. Unilever can lead the way by:

  • Recognizing the real problem: Unilever's own executives have acknowledged the issues with sachet waste and its inability to be recycled. Stop pursuing ineffective solutions and face the reality that sachets are harmful to human and environmental health and cannot be safely managed. It's time to take decisive action and phase them out completely.
  • Scaling up real solutions: Unilever has tried a multitude of ineffective and harmful solutions - recycling schemes, unproven technologies, cement kiln burning and community waste recovery projects - to try to deal with sachet pollution and yet the problem remains. It’s time to increase investment in reuse and refill systems that can be affordable and accessible to all without environmental and human health costs.
  • Aligning actions with commitments: focus on plastic reduction, quit sachets, invest and scale up refill-reuse models and embrace sustainable packaging alternatives so that your own voluntary targets can be achieved. We hope to see Unilever leading the way among businesses by spearheading a model that aligns with your company's stated aims for the Global Plastic Treaty (ref: Page 3), without waiting for the treaty to be finalized by late 2024. The communities we represent across Asia cannot wait any longer for an end to sachet pollution.

The undersigned organizations look forward to working with you and your teams to find positive solutions to the scourge of sachets, and we are excited for Unilever to show real leadership on this issue.

Be the first mover, Unilever. #QuitSachets!



Break Free From Plastic



1 7th Generation Advisors USA
2 Acción Ecológica Mexico Mexico
3 Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance New Zealand
4 Asoc. Retorna Spain
5 Bali Waste Platform Indonesia
6 BAN Toxics Philippines
7 Barranquilla+20 Colombia
8 Between the Waters USA
9 Beyond Plastics Affiliate USA
10 California Communities Against Toxics USA
11 Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ) Sri Lanka
12 Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) Malaysia
13 Centre for Financial Accountability India
14 Chennai Climate Action Group India
15 Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG) India
16 Civil Society Advocacy Network on Climate Change and the Environment Sierra Leone (CAN-SL) Sierra Leone
17 Common Seas United Kingdom
18 Community Legal Help and Public Interest Centre Philippines
20 Concern waste sindh & Recycling Pakistan
21 Consumers' Association of Penang Malaysia
22 CSARO: Community Sanitation and Recycling Organization Cambodia
23 DION (NGO Network of Small Island Developing States) Mauritius
24 DLR Prerna India
25 Dompet Dhuafa Indonesia
26 Dream World Cameroon
27 ECOTON Indonesia
28 Ecowaste Coalition Philippines
29 Ekologi brez meja Slovenija
30 Environics Trust India
31 Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO) Bangladesh
32 Environmental Defence Canada Canada
33 Enviu Indonesia
34 Fenceline Watch USA
35 FreshWater Accountability Project USA
36 Friday for the future Goma Democratic Republic of the Congo
37 Fundación Mingas por el mar Ecuador
38 GAIA - Asia Pacific Regional
39 Gallifrey Foundation Switzerland
41 Green Vientiane Laos
42 Greeners Action Hong Kong
43 Greenpeace Global
44 Health Care Without Harm - South East Asia Regional
45 Health Environment and Climate Action Foundation (HECAF360) Nepal
46 Humusz Szövetség Hungary
47 Indonesia Plastic Bag Diet Movement Indonesia
48 Initiative group Mariupol Zero Waste Ukraine
49 Inland Ocean Coalition USA
50 KongoGreen Democratic Republic of the Congo
51 Küste gegen Plastik e.V. Germany
52 Let's Do It! Macau Macau
53 Let's Do It! Togo Togo
54 Magasool Trust India
55 Marine Conservation Society United Kingdom
56 Mazingira Plus Tanzania
57 Micah Six Eight Mission USA
58 Mother Earth Foundation Philippines
59 National Fisheries Solidarity Movement Sri Lanka
60 National Hawker Federation India
61 National Platform for Small Scale Fish workers (NPSSFW) India
62 Nature's Buddy India
63 Nexus3 Foundation Indonesia
64 NGO Ecological News Ukraine
65 Nipe Fagio Tanzania
66 No Plastic in My Sea France
67 Occidental Arts and Ecology Center USA
68 Ocean students Community India
69 Oceana Philippines Philippines
70 OceanCare Switzerland
71 OSEAN (Our Sea of East Asia Network) Republic of Korea
72 Pacific Environment and Resource Center in Vietnam (PE-VN) Vietnam
73 Pan African Vision for the Environment(PAVE) Nigeria
74 Parisar India
75 Partnership for Sustainable Development Nepal Nepal
76 Planet Tracker United Kingdom
77 Plastic Free Seas Hong Kong
78 Plastic Solutions Fund USA
79 Plastic Soup Foundation Netherlands
80 Polish Zero Waste Association Poland
81 Poovulakin Nanbargal India
82 Population and Development Initiative (PDI) Tanzania
83 Recycling Netwerk Benelux Netherlands
84 Rio Grande International Study Center USA
85 River Warrior Indonesia Indonesia
86 Safer States USA
87 Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth) Malaysia
88 Sciaena Portugal
89 SEAS AT RISK Global
90 South Durban Community Environmental Aliance South Africa
91 Sudao G.R.E.E.N. Minds Philippines
92 Surfrider Foundation Europe France
93 Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development (SRADeV Nigeria) Nigeria
94 Taiwan Zero Waste Alliance Taiwan
95 Texas Campaign for the Environment USA
96 Thant Myanmar Myanmar
97 The Center for Applied Research and People's Engagement. India
98 The Descendants Project USA
99 The Last Beach Cleanup USA
100 The Story of Stuff Project USA
101 Trash Hero World Global
102 TRASH MASTI Pakistan
103 Upcycle It Ghana Ghana
104 Vivir sin plástico Spain
105 VšĮ "Žiedinė ekonomika" Lithuania
106 WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia Indonesia
107 War on Waste BFFP Negros Oriental Philippines
108 Wastepickers Welfare Foundation (WWF) India
109 WECF e.V. Germany (Women Engage for a Common Future) Germany
110 Wen (Women's Environmental Network) United Kingdom
111 YPBB (Yaksa Pelestari Bumi Berkelanjutan) Indonesia
112 Zero Waste Association of South Africa South Africa
113 Zero Waste Durban South Africa
114 Zero Waste Himalaya India
115 Zero Waste Sabah Malaysia
116 Zero Waste Society Ukraine
117 Zimbabwe Youth For Impaired Persons Trust Zimbabwe


These 117 organisations, representing 44 countries and territories from around the world, are a part of Break Free From Plastic.

#breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 2,500 organisations representing millions of supporters around the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. BFFP member organisations and individuals share the shared values of environmental protection and social justice and work together through a holistic approach to bring about systemic change. This means tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain—from extraction to disposal—focusing on prevention rather than cure and providing effective solutions. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.

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