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Unilever turns to biomass in hope of sustainable future

Unilever, together with the University of Liverpool, has established a research project to develop biomass-based chemicals that can be used in the manufacture of its home and personal care products.

The three-year project will see the development of renewable chemicals from surplus sugars, fats, oils and carbohydrates produced via commodity by-products and forestry wastes. The aim is to identify sustainable ingredients that can be used to produce some of the company's product ranges.

The work will be carried out at the university and the new unit will be jointly operated by the two parties. The partnership agreement is part-funded by the UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

The research will incorporate non-food grade feedstocks including materials such as sugar beet residue. Sugar business and product partner AB Sugar will supply sugar beet residue from its refining process.

Unilever research director Paul Jenkins says of the project: 'This research could eventually result in a range of new alternatives for core ingredients like surfactants and polymers which go into many of our home and personal care products.'