Recycle, refill, rethink – 7 solutions for more sustainable packaging

How Henkel is rethinking packaging

Responsibility Responsibility Apr 21, 2022
Designer draws a packaging template.

In this story, you will discover:

Smart packaging that protects the product, allows easy use, but at the same time minimizes the negative impact on the environment - a challenge we are addressing with ambitious goals: By 2025, 100 percent of Henkel's packaging is to be recyclable or reusable. We aim to reduce the amount of virgin plastics from fossil sources in our consumer goods packaging by 50 percent by 2025. At the same time, we are increasing the amount of recycled plastic to more than 30 percent by 2025. These steps will help us in achieving a functioning circular economy. Our Henkel experts are working together with external partners on tomorrow’s packaging solutions, considering the entire value chain: from raw materials and production to use and disposal.

Here we have compiled seven examples of what sustainable packaging solutions can look like specifically and which current innovations are helping us move forward to a closed circular economy.

1. Product packaging that is 100 percent recyclable

The idea of a circular economy goes far beyond the use of plastic in packaging: We need to change the way we think about resources and turn waste into valuable raw materials.

2. From liquid to solid – new products allow new packaging

Changing from a liquid product to a solid one offers new possibilities in production and application. Due to the compressed ingredients, solid products – compared to liquid ones are smaller and more efficient. As a result, they allow other forms of packaging: for example, it is possible to switch from plastic bottles to cardboard boxes made of recycled material.

3. Less plastic, more product – saving emissions through refill systems

Refilling at home or directly in-store – with refill pouches, products such as shampoo, soap or dishwashing detergent can easily be refilled at home in the already existing product packaging. This saves new packaging material because the refill bags use less plastic, are easier to transport and thus help reduce emissions. Some products can also be refilled directly at refill stations in drugstores and supermarkets.

4. Separating materials to bring them together

Disposing of old packaging so that they can be recycled. Sounds simple – but in practice that’s not always the case. Many materials must first be separated so that their individual parts can be repaired or recycled accordingly.

5. Smart design for resource-saving usage

When it comes to sustainable product packaging, it's not only the right material that counts, but also the right design. Smart packaging design can save material or make a sustainable impact by changing the way the product is used. With a pump dispenser that portions the amount of product, resources can be conserved, and emissions reduced.

6. Recycle what was not recyclable before

Not every type of plastic is automatically recyclable. For a long time, black plastic packaging challenged the recycling value chain because of the color used. The optical sensors in recycling plants could not properly identify and sort the black packaging, which meant that it was sorted out as residual waste and then incinerated.

7. Finding alternatives without compromising

Paper and cardboard are often seen as a sustainable alternative to plastic. However, functionality plays a key role in the use of alternative raw materials – often products made of paper must have the same, if not better, characteristics than conventional materials made of plastic.

These seven examples are representative of how innovative solutions in the packaging sector changing our approach to packaging. From its design and the recyclability of materials to new products and application features such as refill stations: It is clear that packaging meets complex requirements and a functioning circular economy requires holistic solutions along the value chain.