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Smart packaging solutions

At Henkel, we follow the three basic principles of prevention, reduction and recycling to minimize waste and thus reduce the negative impact of packaging on the environment.

  • Prevention, reduction, recycling
  • Less packaging and waste
  • Better packaging
  • Enabling a circular economy

The packaging of our consumer products fulfills many different functions: It ensures the hygiene and intactness of the products, protects them from external influences, provides space for necessary consumer information and plays a role in the purchasing decision through its design. Reducing or completely avoiding packaging material is the best way to minimize waste and related negative environmental impacts. Resource consumption can be reduced if materials are kept within the cycles of the economy for as long as possible. At Henkel, we are working on intelligent packaging solutions and follow three basic principles – prevention, reduction, recycling. We have concentrated these principles on the following action priorities:

Our goal is to reduce the quantity of packaging material in the entire product life cycle without impacting the quality, performance, or safety of our products. Our concrete target for 2020 is a reduction in packaging weight of 20 percent per sales unit, compared to the base year 2010. Our packaging engineers continuously work in close collaboration with partners along the entire value chain to make use of leading design techniques, modern production technologies, and advanced materials in the development process. We cooperate with external research institutions on an ongoing basis to develop packaging formats that offer the consumer the same quality they expect, but with less packaging material. Alongside collaborations with research institutions, we also participate in co-operations with partners like UPM Raflatac, whose RafCycle® program enables us to recycle even more waste.

The most widely used packaging materials made from renewable raw materials are paper and cardboard. We want to continually increase our use of these materials. We also test and assess new packaging materials. While biodegradable plastics could potentially be an attractive alternative, they have not yet been able to meet the stringent requirements that we place on our packaging materials, in particular due to their limited durability. Nevertheless, we are following developments in this sector closely, and actively searching for suitable materials and applications.

For other new packaging materials, such as bioplastic, whose polymers are based on raw materials obtained from plant sources, application possibilities already exist. We are working closely with partner universities and raw material suppliers to identify possible bio-based materials and actively support their future development. We jointly assess where it makes sense to use biopolymers as packaging materials from a technical, economic and environmental point of view. Using life cycle analyses, we ensure that the environmental effects will be less than those of mineral-oil-based materials. Sustainable packaging has long been a priority issue at Henkel. Henkel began to reduce the use of PVC in its packaging back in the 1990s. Today, we only use PVC in a few exceptional cases for which we have not yet found a workable alternative (less than one percent of our total global expenditure on packaging). We continue to work toward our goal of fully eliminating PVC from our packaging materials.

To enable a circular economy, the materials of our packaging should be either recyclable or reusable. For this reason, we rely on using materials that are compatible with public recycling systems, where they exist: For example, we support local collection systems such as the “Green Dot” in Germany.

We mainly focus on mono-materials that can be recycled particularly efficiently, and also inform customers and consumers about the recyclability of the packaging materials we use. We mark all packaging accordingly and disclose the main materials used and whether they are recyclable or not. Through activities and events that raise awareness about this topic, we want to reach more than 300 million consumers with targeted information about recycling, while also raising awareness among our employees worldwide.

Alongside our activities related to primary packaging materials, we are working in close collaboration with suppliers and industry partners to reduce the amount of secondary packaging (outer packaging) – by using recyclable transport containers, for example. We are cooperating with suppliers and industry partners to reduce transport packaging as far as possible. Transport packaging is developed so that pallets and containers can be optimally packed. The packaging materials we use must be sturdy in order to ensure that our products are not damaged during transport, and that our trucks and freight cars can be optimally loaded in terms of volume and weight. For our industrial customers, we offer multi-use systems such as reusable transport containers and secondary packaging, which offer significant potential reductions in CO2 emissions are available for our industrial customers.

Due to its many positive properties, we often rely on paper-based packaging materials that contain a high proportion of recycled material. If fresh fiber is required, we strive to ensure that it is sourced from sustainable forestry sources. As a signatory to a Consumer Goods Forum initiative against worldwide deforestation and for the protection of biodiversity, Henkel undertook to take individual and collective measures to stop global deforestation and achieve the objective of “zero net deforestation by 2020”.