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The purple carbon cleaning revolution


Out of the chimney and into detergents, we’re reinventing the future of cleaning and using captured carbon emissions to create our products

Bottle of Coral Color+, laundry liquid created using carbon captured from industrial emissions, in front of image of world

Earlier this year, we launched the world’s first laundry capsule made using captured carbon emissions – or recycled carbon. Now, we’re piloting this world-class innovation in two more brands around the world.

Sunlight in South Africa launched the world’s first hand-dishwash made using recycled carbon in its formulation. And more recently, in Germany, we have also launched our first laundry liquid in which the key cleaning ingredient is made with recycled carbon too. The limited-edition Coral Optimal Color+ featured our first label on-pack to promote recycled carbon within a product, including a QR code that helps consumers find out more about recycled carbon and the brand’s sustainability journey. The product is also packaged in recyclable bottles made using 70% recycled plastic, meaning washing your clothes just got cleaner .

Andreea Sapunaru, Global Marketing Director Fabric, Cleaning, said of the launch, “We undertook a full product development for the launch in Germany – not only in changing the formulation, but the packaging too. It’s a market in which we see high consumer sentiment for more sustainable solutions and so we’re delighted to have launched this as a first step in our journey to a Clean Future.”

Bottle of Sunlight hand-dishwashing liquid, world’s first dishwashing liquid with recycled carbon

Creating a carbon shift

The chemical industry is the backbone to modern manufacturing, but it is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, which provide 85% of the feedstock or raw fuel it uses.* You can’t make cleaning products without chemicals, but you can make chemicals without fossil fuels.

That’s why we’ve committed to eliminating virgin petrochemicals from our cleaning and laundry formulations. As part of Clean Future strategy, Unilever developed the ‘Carbon Rainbow’ to help illustrate how we’re working to shift the carbon inputs used in our products to renewable and recycled sources.

We are working to replace non-renewable virgin fossil fuels, also known as ‘black’ carbon, with other renewable and recycled carbon sources. These include ‘purple’ carbon captured from the air or from industrial emissions, ‘blue’ carbon from sources in the ocean, ‘grey’ carbon from waste materials and ‘green’ carbon from plants and biomass.

The Unilever Carbon Rainbow, which shows the shift from fossil fuels to other renewable and recycled carbon sources

Creating a cleaner future

Working with our partners LanzaTech and India Glycols Limited (IGL), carbon recycling processes are used to trap industrial emissions from a steel plant before they enter the atmosphere. The captured gases are added to various bacterial cultures (a bit like yeast) to convert them into ethanol. This is then used to produce surfactants – a key cleaning ingredient that creates foam and breaks down oil, grease and soil. Surfactants are typically made directly from fossil fuels, making them one of the most greenhouse gas intensive ingredients in our products, so being able to create them using recycled carbon is a big environmental win.

Jon Hague, our VP for Science and Technology, who leads the Clean Future programme, says: “Our partnership with LanzaTech and IGL has enabled us to use a world-first innovation in the cleaning industry and trial it across different brands, products and markets. Our journey to a Clean Future is well underway and how we bring this to life for consumers in our products and on-pack is key to helping them make more informed purchasing choices that are better for them and the planet.”

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