This collaboration will allow testing of how organic waste materials, such as rice husks, sugar bagasse and wheat husks, can be used to produce more sustainable chemicals in Unilever’s personal care products.
"Unilever [wants] to double the size of its business while reducing its environmental impact across its entire value chain,” Dr Glyn Roberts director of Sustainability at Unilever R&D told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com.
Dr Roberts also added that the focus of the research for the next three years is on how to substitute fossil fuel-derived chemicals used in the manufacture of Unilever’s products with chemicals that are developed from more sustainable organic waste materials.
University of Liverpool professor Andrew Cooper, who is leading the research, said “Consumers don’t always realise that these products have some very sophisticated molecules in them based on oil and therefore there is a long-term issue about sustainability.”
Hoping to produce more sustainable products from sustainable plant materials such as sugarcane, he added, “These products will still have to work and be every bit as effective, but without using the petrochemicals. It could also make the industry less of a slave to the cost of oil.”
Regional Growth Fund
The research has been funded by a £2.8m government grant from the Regional Growth Fund, which will be used to build a micro refinery at the university.
The bio-refinery unit will isolate polymer building blocks from biomass feed-stocks. The functional polymers can then be synthesised to replace current petrochemical polymers used in personal care products.