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 and use a smart design to close the loop.

1. Materials from sustainable sources

  • 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 have set the ambitious target to increase the proportion of recycled plastic globally to more than 30 percent in all plastic packaging for our consumer goods products by 2025. This ambition represents a further development of our goal to increase the amount of recycled plastic in Europe to 35 percent. At the end of 2019, this share was 12 percent
  • In addition, we will increasingly use bio-based plastic because it represents a more sustainable alternative to fossil materials.
  • The polymers of these materials are based on raw materials obtained from plant sources. Provided they can deliver the same technical performance as conventional polymers, they could offer a good alternative and provide long-term benefits.
  • We explicitly exclude materials that might be in competition with food. For this reason, we are testing the use of second-generation bio-based feedstock material.
  • The most widely used packaging materials made from renewable raw materials are paper and cardboard. We aim 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. Our paper-based packaging currently comprises 68 percent recycled paper and cardboard.
  • There are substances of potential concern, like polyvinyl chlorides (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. Today, we only use PVC in a few exceptional cases for which we have not yet found a workable alternative. Overall, materials containing PVC currently make up less than 0.1 percent of our total global expenditure on packaging. 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.

2. Smart packaging design

  • Reducing packaging material by offering smart solutions is the best way to minimize waste and the related negative environmental effects. For many years, we have been striving 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. Our goal is to reduce the amount of plastic used in our consumer packaging. As well as this, smart designs play a vital role right from the start when it comes to replacing virgin material with recycled or renewable alternatives where feasible and technically possible. For example, stability requirements can limit the use of alternative materials in some packaging. However, smart design goes beyond this, using less material and more sustainable materials. To transform a linear economy into a circular economy, our packaging experts rethink packaging concepts and assess further ways of developing re-usable and re-fillable solutions that place a stronger focus on durability. They also continue to optimize transport packaging and related logistics.

3. Closing the loop

  • To enable a circular economy, we are striving to make sure our product packaging can be recycled after the product has been consumed. Our aim is that 100 percent of Henkel’s packaging will be recyclable or reusable by 2025. At the end of 2019, we had achieved this for 85 percent of our packaging.
  • By systematically applying design-for-recycling principles, we want to overcome recycling hurdles specific to each category, like flexible packaging, sleeves 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.
  • In particular, we work with our trade partners to help consumers understand how to use and dispose of our products correctly. Among other things, special recycling symbols on our products help us to do this. We aim to enable contact with more than 2 billion consumers per year by providing targeted information about recycling. Another option to close the loop is to reuse packaging. We are testing refill solutions in relevant markets to explore and understand consumer acceptance, as well as the related requirements and costs.
  • We also want to maximize the re-usability of secondary and tertiary packaging that is typically used for shelf displays or logistical purposes.

Overview of our Packaging Targets

  • 100 percent of Henkel’s packaging will be recyclable or reusable. *
  • We aim to reduce the amount of virgin plastics from fossil sources in our consumer products by 50 percent. We will achieve this by increasing the proportion of recycled plastic to more than 30 percent, by reducing the plastic volume, and by increasingly using bio-based plastics.
  • We want to help prevent waste from being disposed of in the environment. In order to achieve this, we are supporting waste collection and recycling initiatives. We invest in innovative solutions and technologies to promote closed-loop recycling, and we aim to enable contact with more than 2 billion consumers per year by providing targeted information about recycling.

Alongside this, we aim for 100 percent of the paper and cardboard we use to be made of recycled material or, where virgin fiber is required, to come from fresh fiber originating from sustainable forestry. And we want to remove and avoid polyvinyl chlorides (PVC) and other substances of potential concern.

* 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 of the packaging value chain work together. Henkel’s experts are engaged in several cross-industry initiatives to drive innovation in packaging development and to find effective solutions that can be developed on a large scale. Henkel has also teamed up with different organizations that are working on improving recycling infrastructure to enable a circular economy. Appropriate systems for recycling packaging materials are not in place in many areas, especially in developing countries. We believe that partnerships along the value chain are the only way 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

Henkel is also committed to cross-industry initiatives for sustainable packaging. Henkel is a founding member of a new initiative focusing on plastic waste, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW). Close to 30 international companies along the value chain for plastics and consumer goods have joined forces to tackle the global challenge of a circular economy together. The aim of the alliance is to promote solutions that put a stop to plastic waste in the environment, especially in the ocean. Another example is our membership in the New Plastics Economy (NPEC), an initiative led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that brings key stakeholders together to rethink and reshape the future of plastics and build momentum toward a circular economy. In October 2018, the New Plastics Economy introduced its Global Commitment, which has been signed by more than 400 organizations – including Henkel. The collective goal is to stop plastic waste and pollution at the source. Henkel is also founding member of CEFLEX, a consortium of more than 130 European companies and organizations aiming to make flexible packaging – which usually consists of multiple layers of film or foil that are often difficult to separate – easier to recycle.

Social partnerships to transform waste into opportunity

Plastic Bank is a social enterprise that aims to stop plastic pollution from entering the oceans, while also providing opportunities for people in poverty. Henkel started working with Plastic Bank in 2017, and was the first major global consumer goods company to partner with the organization and successfully incorporate the plastic collected into some of its product packaging. Since the beginning of the partnership, three new plastic collection centers have been established in Haiti, a country that lacks adequate waste management infrastructure. Local communities can return collected plastic waste and exchange it for money, goods, or social benefits. This creates value from plastic instead of letting it enter waterways or oceans as waste. The plastic that is collected in Haiti is then sorted and can subsequently be introduced into the recycling value chain as Social Plastic®. This is material that has been verified by Plastic Bank to indicate that the collectors received an above-market price for the plastic waste. The recycled Social Plastic® can be used in products or packaging, and in this way closes the material cycle.

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