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Unilever, J&J Campaigns Aim to 'End Bottle Bias,' Boost Bathroom Recycling

Image credit: Unilever

When it comes to in-home recycling habits, Unilever and Johnson & Johnson have found the same thing: Not all packaging is treated equally. Unilever reports that only 14 percent of Americans are recycling their bathroom bottles, while 56 percent of American households recycle kitchen items. Similarly, a recent consumer survey commissioned by Johnson & Johnson found that 34 percent of ‘regular recyclers’ admit that it never even occurred to them to recycle in the bathroom.

Each company announced they would be reprising, and building upon, behavior change campaigns to encourage families to recycle, with an emphasis on bathroom product packaging.

"When it comes to household recycling, we want people to realize that how they dispose of empty bottles in the bathroom is just as important as how they dispose of empty bottles in the kitchen,” said Julie Zaniewski, Packaging Sustainability Manager at Unilever. “We are inviting consumers to #RethinkRecycling by putting their empty bathroom bottles in the bin just as often as their kitchen empties, because if we each make small changes, we can create a brighter future for all.”

In an effort to rally Americans to reassess their habits related to their empty bath and beauty bottles, “Unilever bottles will take a stand – and take up picket signs – to demand equality in recycling.” The campaign features playful imagery of Unilever bathroom products from brands such as Simple®, Dove® and Suave® with signs to “end bottle bias,” and reminding consumers that they are recyclable, too.

Further, the company is inviting Americans to vote for what recycled plastics can become. By tweeting with the corresponding hashtag, people can vote for Unilever to create coats for kids, school supplies or playgrounds from recycled plastics in partnership with Keep America Beautiful. Influencers will also be promoting the campaign online, led by actress, producer, New York Times Best-Selling author, and Emmy®-nominated co-host of The View, Candace Cameron Bure.

This is the second year in a row that Unilever will be running its “Rinse.Recycle.Reimagine.” program, which began as an extension of its national sponsorship of the “I Want to Be Recycled” public service campaign created by Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council. “I Want to Be Recycled” has attracted more than 3.2 million website visitors since its July 2013 launch.

"As a company that touches 2 billion people a day with our products, our size alone provides the opportunity to bring about transformational change," Zaniewski said. "We're working across our whole value chain – from the sourcing of raw materials to our factories and the way consumers use our products – so that we can make a bigger difference on the issues that matter most, like recycling and the environment. We've come a long way, but we have more work to do and we need America to join us."

Unilever’s other waste-related initiatives include achieving zero non-hazardous waste to landfill status at all of its global factories and U.S. non-manufacturing facilities, and participation in the Closed Loop Fund alongside Johnson & Johnson and other leading companies. The Fund aims to address the root causes of low recycling rates.


Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is building on its Care To Recycle® program. Just in time for Earth Day, the company shared new, creative Do-It-Yourself (DIY) craft projects and ‘hacks’ for making bathroom recycling easier, and to offer parents and kids to bond around ‘doing good’ together.

Previous research from J&J and Cone Communications showed that a lack of recycling bins in rooms beyond the kitchen was the biggest barrier to recycling. While a more recent J&J-commissioned survey showed a 5 percent increase in respondents who had a recycling bin in their bathroom, the total still amounted to just 19 percent of households, compared to 71 percent in the kitchen and 44 percent in the garage.

The survey also revealed that 60 percent of parents believe they would be more likely to discuss recycling with their children if it became an activity they could do together, and if they had more creative, engaging ways to explain the impact of recycling. In response, J&J decided to offer more resources that could help parents ‘edu-tain’ their kids around recycling personal care products.

“Care To Recycle® is all about overcoming the challenges to recycling in the home, especially in the bathroom where many of our products are used or stored,” said Paulette Frank, the Vice President of Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability at Johnson & Johnson.

“In celebration of Earth Day this year, Care To Recycle® will offer creative, kid-friendly ideas to help make recycling a fun 'let's do good together' moment between parents and their children, rather than a household chore.”

Some of the crafts and activities you may have seen before, such as a birdfeeder from a lotion bottle or repurposing containers for storage, but others are quite unique, such as making a funky bracelet from an old plastic (and difficult to recycle) toothbrush. The Care To Recycle website also has a full-day activity plan to teach kids about recycling, a downloadable activity sheet, and more ‘recycling family fun.’


Hannah Furlong is an Editorial Assistant for Sustainable Brands, based in Canada. She is researching the circular economy as a Master's student in Sustainability Management at the University of Waterloo and holds a Bachelor's in Environment and Business Co-op. Hannah… [Read more about Hannah Furlong]


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