THE WHAT? Unilever has joined forces with Alibaba to launch an AI-powered closed loop recycling system as part of the companies’ Waste Free World Initiative.
THE DETAILS In what is said to be a world first, the two consumer goods companies have created the system to automatically identify and sort plastic packaging when scanning QR codes on plastic bottles recycled by consumers.
The AI technology will sort and identify the plastic based on the data, with the packaging waste then being used for future Unilever products.
There are currently 20 machines in office and community spaces in Shanghai and Hangzhou, with the companies planning to roll out a further 500 machines during 2021.
THE WHY? Created as part of the two companies joint Waste Free World initiative, which aims to marry Unilever’s packaging technology with Alibaba’s business operating system to drive a closed recycling loop, the system is hoped to accelerate a change in consumer recycling behaviour based on a reward system.
Consumers can earn both Unilever coupons and Alipay rewards when using the recycling unit.
Rohit Jawa, Executive Vice President of Unilever North Asia said, “Plastic has its place, but it should not cause environmental pollution. We believe Waste Free World jointly launched with Alibaba Group will become the ‘green engine’ of the circular economy for plastic packaging in China.”