Packaging plays a key role in our modern way of life. Without it, most products would expire or get damaged before arriving in a store. However, it’s frequently pointed out as one of the main villains in our planet’s battle for environmental sustainability because it turns into waste after its use. That’s why companies from across industries are searching for ways to close the loop and minimize the negative environmental impact of packaging while still benefitting from its positive properties.
It protects the products we love and provides information about how to use them safely and responsibly – but packaging needs to become part of a circular economy.
This search relies on people with a range of skills – but packaging designers are the key players when it comes to tackling the challenges of sustainable packaging. From making packaging easier to recycle after use through to integrating more recycled material in new packaging: These experts create packaging that protects the products we love while also offering a better contribution to the planet.
Towards a circular economy: Using material over and over again
The biggest problem with packaging is that it usually becomes waste as soon as a consumer finishes using a product. That’s why experts in smart packaging also focus on creating designs that are optimized for recycling. By making their existing packaging easier to recycle – and also using more and more recycled material in new packaging – companies can help keep materials in the value chain for longer.
This idea is at the heart of the circular economy model: A way of thinking that seeks to gather materials after they have been used and process them so they can be reused or recycled over and over again. This eliminates waste and reduces the environmental impact of packaging – as long as strong recycling and waste management systems are in place.
Our packaging strategy: Strong focus, ambitious targets
At Henkel, we recognize our responsibility related to packaging. We’re committed to promoting sustainability and bring this commitment to life through a set of ambitious targets. Our strategy is built around the circular economy concept and focuses on including materials from sustainable sources and using a smart design to close the loop – for the benefit of people and the planet.
Our goals for packaging by 2025 are:
- 100 percent of Henkel’s packaging will be designed for recycling or reuse.*
- 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 entering 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 2 with more than 2 billion consumers per year by providing targeted information about recycling.
New packaging targets for 2025
* Excluding products where ingredients or residue may affect recyclability or pollute recycling streams.
Alongside this, we aim for 100 percent of the paper and cardboard we use for packaging to be made of recycled material or, where virgin fiber is required, to come from fresh fiber originating from sustainable forestry. We also want to remove and avoid polyvinyl chlorides (PVC) and other substances of potential concern.
New Loctite coating solution
The innovative heat-seal coating opens up new and sustainable design possibilities by enabling PE to be replaced with paper for primary and secondary packaging applications, ranging from hygiene products and food to packaging for industrial hardware bags.
Recyclable toothpaste tubes
Our tubes for dental care products will be fully recyclable by the beginning of 2021 and the unique tube manufacturing technology also reduces the carbon footprint of the products.
Pro Nature bottles made from recycled plastic
All PET bottle bodies for Pro Nature cleaning products under the Biff, Pril and Sidolin brands are made from 100 percent recycled plastic, of which 50 percent is Social Plastic®.
Partnerships along the value chain: Stronger together
Our efforts to achieve these targets are brought to life through strong collaboration with partners from across industries to drive innovation in packaging development.
- New Plastics Economy: this initiative is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and brings stakeholders together to rethink the future of plastic and build momentum toward a circular economy.
- Alliance To End Plastic Waste: Henkel is a founding member of this global alliance which has the aim to promote solutions that put a stop to plastic waste in the environment, especially in the ocean.
- Recyclate Forum: this initiative aims to raise consumers’ awareness of circular economy and consist of over 40 members, such as retailers, manufacturers, waste disposal companies, packaging producers and politicians.
- European Plastics Pact and U.S. Plastics Pact: Henkel signed plastics pacts, in both the US and Europe. These two regional agreements, to which we were one of the first signatories, bring governments and businesses together to collaborate in moving toward a circular economy in which plastic is reused again and again.
- CEFLEX: Henkel is also a 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.
A key partner on the journey towards better recycling of waste and establishing a circular economy is the social enterprise Plastic Bank, which works to reduce plastic waste in nature, including in the world’s oceans, while at the same time offering new opportunities to people who live in poverty – especially in countries where recycling infrastructure for waste disposal is non-existent or inadequate. In 2017, Henkel became the first major global consumer goods company to partner with Plastic Bank.