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Creating smarter packaging

We drive progress towards a circular economy by creating smarter packaging for the benefit of people and the planet.

  • Why we need packaging
  • Driving progress towards a circular economy
  • Henkel concentrates its efforts to drive progress on three key phases
  • Partnerships to close the loop

The packaging for our consumer products fulfills many different functions: it ensures the hygiene and safety of the products, protects them from external influences, provides space for necessary consumer information and often plays an important role in the purchasing decision through attractive packaging design and shelf appeal.

All our packaging is designed in such a way that it delivers the performance expected by the consumer while using the least possible amount of and the most sustainable materials. To achieve this goal, our packaging engineers work closely with partners along the entire value chain, so they can make use of leading design techniques, modern production technologies and advanced materials in the development process.

Packaging waste, and especially plastics waste and pollution have captured the attention of the public, governments, and businesses around the world. The search for solutions has started, and there is growing recognition that addressing the symptoms through clean-ups is not enough. A systemic shift tackling the root causes is required: a transition towards a circular economy. Resource consumption can be reduced if materials are kept within the cycles of the economy for as long as possible.

Our mission is to include materials from sustainable sources into smart designs to close the loop.

1. Materials from sustainable sources

  • ​In order to recover as much existing material as possible, Henkel constantly works on increasing the share of recycled content in its packaging. While many of our brands already offer products with packaging made from recycled material, we set ourselves the ambitious target to use 35 percent recycled plastic for all the plastic packaging of our consumer goods products in Europe by 2025.
  • We also aim to continually increase our use of renewable materials. The most widely used packaging materials made from renewable raw materials are paper and cardboard. We target to use 100 percent recycled paper and cardboard material or, where necessary, fresh fiber originating from sustainable forestry to contribute to zero net deforestation, by 2020. This is also part of our commitment to the Consumer Goods Forum initiative against worldwide deforestation and for the protection of biodiversity.
  • There are substances of potential concern, like PVC, which are often criticized as packaging materials. Henkel began to remove and avoid the use of PVC in its packaging back in the 1990s. We continue to work toward our goal of fully eliminating PVC from our packaging materials and extend the scope to cover other substances of potential concern, e.g. oxo-biodegradable plastics.

2. Smart packaging design

  • Reducing packaging material or avoiding it completely is the best way to minimize waste and thus negative environmental effects. We aim to reduce the amount of packaging material where possible and do away with all packaging that is not absolutely essential. Since many years, we strive to reduce the quantity of packaging material in the entire product life cycle without impacting the quality, performance, or safety of our products. We will continue to do so in the future.
  • Next to that, a smart design right from the start plays a vital role in order to replace virgin material with recycled or renewable alternatives where feasible and technically realizable. For example, stability requirements can limit the use of alternative materials per individual packaging. With smart designs for newly developed packaging, we test the possibility of using alternatives to virgin material if quality and quantities on the market allow for it.
  • However, smart design goes beyond: to transform a linear economy to a circular economy, our packaging experts even rethink packaging concepts fostering design for recycling, further optimizing also transport packaging and related logistics as well as assessing further options to develop re-usable packs bringing back the virtues of durability.

3. Closing the loop

  • We’re aiming for 100 percent of our packaging to be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.
  • To enable a circular economy, we are striving to make sure our product packaging can be recycled after the product has been consumed. By systematically applying design-for-recycling principles we want to overcome recycling hurdles specific to each category, like flexible packaging, sleeved or black packaging. At the same time, it is important that appropriate systems for recycling packaging materials are in place. That is why we partner with organizations from along the packaging value chain to drive progress in the infrastructure for recycling.
  • Another option to close the loop is to reuse packaging and explore refill solutions in relevant markets based on consumer acceptance, the related footprint and costs. Related to secondary and tertiary packaging typically used for shelf display or logistical purposes we want to maximize the re-usability of such packaging.
  • A third option that allows for circularity is the ability of specific packaging to be returned into nature under certain circumstances. This can be, for example, compostable plastic: it can be based both on renewable raw materials and mineral-oil-based sources or a mixture of the two. However, the current compostable plastics do not meet the stringent requirements that we place on our packaging materials yet. Nevertheless, we closely follow developments in this sector and actively search for suitable materials and possible uses. If we use biodegradable materials, they will meet the international composting standards.
  • We want to further raise awareness about how to close the loop and reach more than 1 billion consumers with targeted information about recycling, while also educating our employees worldwide. 

Overview of our Packaging Targets

  • 100% of Henkel‘s packaging will be recyclable, reusable or compostable, by 2025*.
  • Plastic: We want to increase the share of recycled plastic to 35% for our consumer goods products in Europe, by 2025.
  • Metal: We want to increase the use of recycled aluminum in Europe to 9%, by 2020. 
  • Paper/Pulp: 100% of the paper and cardboard will be made of recycled material or, where necessary come from fresh fiber originating from sustainable forestry.
  • We want to remove and avoid PVC and other substances of potential concern.
  • We aim to reach more than 1 billion consumers through targeted information on recycling.

* Excluding adhesive products where residue may affect recyclability or pollute recycling streams.

Progress toward sustainability in packaging will only be possible if organizations from all stages in the packaging value chain work together. On the one hand, Henkel’s experts are engaged in several cross-industry initiatives to drive innovation in packaging development and to create impactful solutions which can be developed for large scale. On the other hand, Henkel teamed up with different organizations which work on the improvement of recycling infrastructure allowing for a circular economy. Especially in developing countries, appropriate systems for recycling packaging materials are often not in place. We believe that only in partnerships along the value chain we can make sure our product packaging can be recycled or reused after the product has been consumed.

Cross-industry initiatives to tackle challenges in sustainable packaging

One example is our membership in the New Plastics Economy (NPEC), a three-year initiative led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that brings key stakeholders together to redesign the future of plastics. NPEC is aiming to build momentum toward a plastics system based on the “circular economy” principle. The central idea of the circular economy is to gather materials after they have been used and process them, so they can be reintegrated into another production process – over and over again. This saves resources and reduces the environmental impact. The NPEC is bringing key stakeholders together to rethink and redesign the future of plastics, starting with packaging. It is targeting to shift away from incremental improvements and fragmented initiatives and moving toward a shared direction that delivers positive outcomes along the plastics value chain.

Henkel is also participating in CEFLEX, a consortium of around 50 European companies and organizations aiming to make flexible packaging – which consists of multiple layers of film or foil that are often difficult to separate – easier to recycle.

Social partnerships to transform waste into opportunity

The Plastic Bank is a social enterprise which aims to stop ocean plastic and provide opportunities for people in poverty. In this partnership, new plastic collection centers are built in Haiti, where communities will have the chance to earn money or services by removing plastic waste from the local environment – before it enters waterways or oceans. Henkel is the first major global fast-moving consumer goods company to partner with the Plastic Bank and is researching ways of incorporating the plastic collected into its product packaging in the future.

Another important partner of Henkel is Waste Free Oceans. The organization was founded in 2011 with the mission of partnering with businesses and other organizations to remove plastic from the world’s oceans and rivers – and transform it into new items. The partnership between Henkel and Waste Free Oceans focusses on collecting plastic waste from waterways and started with the Danube River.

Click on one of the nine outer areas of our graphic to find out more about the respective aspect of our packaging strategy.