Unilever has joined forces with the Alibaba Group to launch the country’s first large-scale closed-loop plastic recycling system.
The joint initiative called Waste-Free World is part of Unilever’s drive to tackle the root cause of plastic waste and think differently about packaging.
Unilever has set a goal to halve their use of virgin plastic, cut plastic packaging by more than 100,000 tonnes and accelerate the use of recycled plastic by 2025.
Recycling machines that do the sorting for you
The launch of Waste-Free World saw 20 recycling machines installed in offices and community spaces in Shanghai and Hangzhou.
Each machine is equipped with state of the art AI technology which automatically identifies different kinds of plastic bottle. All that customers need to do is to use Alipay Alibaba’s e-wallet service to scan the QR code displayed on the screen of the machine and then deposit the bottle into the recycling bin.
It’s as simple as that – the machine does all hard work. Using AI technology, it automatically identifies the plastic the bottle is made of, sorts it and stores it, so that it can be collected and returned to recycling centres and fast-tracked for reuse rather than degraded.
The system is proving to be a win–win for consumers looking to make more sustainable lifestyle choices and for businesses looking to reuse plastic packaging.
Recycling with additional eco-friendly benefits
Alongside doing their bit to improve recycling rates, consumers earn Unilever coupons and green energy points on the Alipay ‘Ant Forest’ for each bottle they deposit in the Waste-Free World machines.
Green energy points are awarded to consumers for low-carbon activities. Consumers collect them and then put them to use planting trees or protecting conservation land. Since Alipay Ant Forest’s launch in 2016, it has helped plant more than 200 million trees in partnership with NGOs in arid areas of China.