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U-Turn, the plastic recycling program for Primary schools

Leading consumer goods company Unilever East Africa, in partnership with waste management service provider Mr Green Africa, have announced plans to scale up its current plastic recycling program in Primary schools dubbed U-Turn which is a campaign to get people to change their behaviour on how they handle plastics to curb pollution.

In commemoration of this year’s World Environment Day, the two firms called on manufacturers, stakeholders and the public in general to join the gospel of plastic recycling by better managing waste. The event was held at Kariobangi South Primary School in Nairobi, one of the pilot schools already in the U-Turn project. This year’s celebration was themed ‘Beat Air Pollution’, calling on people to explore renewable energy and green technologies, and improve air quality in cities and regions across the world.

“We are on a clear journey towards a circular economy for our plastic packaging, we commit to lead the way in driving a systemic behaviour change among our peers and consumers towards creating a sustainable and clean environment for future generations.” said Mr. Joseph Sunday, Corporate Affairs and Sustainable Business Director at Unilever.

Collection remains a prime challenge in plastic waste management inhibiting efforts to create a fully circular economy. The U-Turn initiative aims to establish sustainable behaviour change in plastic recycling through consumer education and awareness using primary schools channel as a positive catalyst.

The move is in line with the company’s ambition to reduce its environmental impact as it progresses on the journey to ensure that 100 percent of its plastic packaging is designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Unilever has also committed to reduce the weight of its packaging by one third by 2020, and halving the waste associated with the disposal of products by 2020.

The zero waste to landfill target forms a key element of Unilever’s sustainable growth ambition. Nairobi produces around 2,400 tonnes of waste a day, of which roughly 60 percent is collected and only around 10 percent recycled. The rest is dumped illegally or burned. Eliminating this waste has resulted in 70 direct jobs at Mr. Green and provided opportunity for another 1700 waste collectors.

“Reducing waste at source remains the number one priority and we believe the U-Turn initiative alongside other existing collaborative programs will go a long way in helping divert plastics from the landfills and other fragile ecosystems.” Added Sunday.

"We are excited to partner in a project that seeks to keep the environment clean and more liveable with Unilever Kenya," said Keiran Smith, Founder and CEO Mr Green Africa. "This partnership has seen us unlock sustainable solutions to plastic waste management in Kenya, integrating a social component which has helped create more opportunities and employment to hundreds of waste pickers who were previously ignored.


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