Preventing packaging waste

Throughout the company, we follow three basic principles – prevention, reduction, recycling. In order to extend our leadership in sustainability to our packaging development as well, we defined comprehensive targets in 2011 for the coming years.

The packagings of our consumer products fulfill many different functions: They ensure the hygiene and intactness of the products, protect them from external influences, provide space for necessary consumer information and often play an important role in the purchasing decision through attractive packaging design and shelf appeal. Our packaging developers work constantly to design smart packaging while using the least possible amount of material so as to minimize the volume of waste.

In keeping with the concept of “smarter packaging”, we offer ready-for-sale Dial hand soaps with displays on pallets and no secondary packaging. And, for the toilet rim block WC Frisch Kraft Aktiv (Bref Power Active) we were able to lower the amount of plastic used for the product packaging by 55 percent.

We also rely on materials that can be recycled in public recycling systems. In Germany alone, we were thus able to lower the volume of our packaging material by around half since the 1980s. We are also actively committed to preventing and recycling packaging waste in other countries. In the Czech Republic, Henkel is involved, for example, in the EKO-KOM recycling initiative.

Goals for reducing the packaging footprint for consumer products

1. Avoidance of packaging waste by developing packaging solutions that perform better while using the least possible material.

Reducing the amount of packaging material or avoiding it altogether is the best approach to minimize waste and environmental impacts. If not essential, we therefore aim not to use any packaging material at all.

We continuously strive to minimize the amount of packaging material throughout the entire product life cycle without compromising on quality, performance and hygiene of our products. The form of packaging is designed to require only the essential amount of material to deliver the performance promised to consumers. To achieve this, our Packaging Engineers work closely together with all partners in the packaging value chain to use leading edge design techniques, modern production technologies and advanced materials. Our packaging experts collaborate continuously with external researchers to develop new packaging formats that require less material to deliver the same quality and value to consumers.

2. Use of 100 percent recyclable packaging materials by 2015 – for markets with regional collection and recycling systems.

As most of the packaging of our consumer products ends up as household waste after use, our packaging developers seek for intelligent packaging designs which reduce the volume of packaging waste for consumers. To create closed-loop systems, the materials of our primary, secondary and tertiary packaging should become a resource for recycling, reuse or energy recovery after its original use.

We therefore focus on using packaging materials for which public recycling systems exist / that are compatible with respective regional collection and recycling systems. Henkel supports local collection systems, e.g. the “green dot,” so that our customers can recycle packaging more easily.  In general, we focus on mono-materials which make these materials more efficient in the recycling stream.

Additionally, we inform customers and consumers about the recyclability of the materials used. We label all packaging accordingly to indicate the main materials used and their recyclability. We also work closely together with our suppliers and industrial partners to reduce the amount of secondary packaging by offering returnable packaging systems, e.g. in the form of reusable transport containers.

3. By 2015, use of 100 percent recycled paper and board materials or – where necessary – use of fresh fibers sourced 100 percent from sustainably managed forests.

We believe that recycled materials will play a key role as raw material sources in the future, together with materials from renewable resources. Our selection of raw materials for packaging therefore aims at using the highest amount of reusable and recycled materials possible, without compromising the excellent quality of our products.

Paper-based packagings offer a variety of advantages. They are the most versatile of packs in design, both structurally and graphically, and are used for an extremely wide range of products. In addition, they are convenient to handle in production, distribution and merchandising, as they have a high material strength. They are cost effective and very often considered as an eco-friendly alternative by consumers. The great advantage of paper-based packaging material is that it can be recycled and therefore plays a very important role for our primary, secondary and tertiary packaging.

Currently, we use around 50 percent of recycled paper and cardboard for our packaging. Our objective is that, by 2015, we source the paper packaging materials for our entire product portfolio either from recycled sources or – when fresh fiber materials are necessary – from sustainably managed forests. To achieve this, we seek close cooperation with our suppliers. However, obtaining such materials continues to pose a challenge in many cases due to the limited regional availability of recycled or certified paper products.

4. Continuous appraisal of the ecological and economic feasibility of using bioplastics based on renewable raw materials that do not compete with the food industry.

We believe that – together with recycled materials – materials from renewable sources will play a key role in the future. We work to continuously increase the amount of packaging materials from renewable sources, where this is technically feasible and materials can be sourced sustainably, i.e. their production does not lead to negative impacts on natural ecosystems or to competition with agricultural land use.

The most widely established packaging materials from renewable resources today are paper and carton-based packages. We continuously strive to increase the usage of these materials (see also objective 3). In addition, we test and evaluate new packaging materials such as bioplastics. Recently, polymers derived from renewable resources instead of crude oil have become available for the FMCG market. The polymers in these plastic materials are based on raw materials derived from plants, such as sugar cane or corn. They are in many ways considered to be more environmentally compatible than conventional plastics. Provided they deliver the same technical performance as conventional polymers, they can constitute a good alternative and offer attractive economic advantages in the long term.

We work together with external partners, universities, material suppliers and converters to identify possible bio-based materials and are committed to driving their development forward. Together, we evaluate any possible options to use biopolymers as packaging materials, from the technical, commercial and ecological perspective. We use LCA studies to confirm the lower environmental impact compared to crude-oil based materials.

5. Monitoring developments in biodegradable plastics; active search for suitable materials and potential uses.

Biodegradable plastics can either be based 100% on renewable raw materials or on a combination of these with mineral-oil-based materials. In ideal circumstances, the plant-based materials are produced by organic farming methods, thus allowing them to be broken down into natural constituents again.

Unfortunately, biodegradable plastics have not yet been able to satisfy the high standards we set for our packaging materials in terms of reliable product protection, quality, consumer appeal, and value. One problem is their limited durability. For our consumer products, we have to guarantee a shelf-life of several years in addition to the period after opening. This cannot be achieved with the biodegradable plastics that are currently available. Technical aspects, such as moldability and stability also need to be improved. In addition, some materials are not compatible with existing recycling systems.

Nevertheless, we continuously monitor developments in this sector and are actively searching for suitable materials and potential uses.

6. Where technically feasible, complete elimination of PVC as a packaging material by 2015. We only use PVC materials in a few exceptional cases today. They account for less than one percent of our worldwide packaging expenditures.

PVC (polyvinylchloride) is often considered as a substance of concern as in some countries it is not collected via official recycling systems but destroyed without using industrial incinerators. This could generate emissions which potentially harm the environment and human health.

Henkel began to minimize the use of PVC in packaging in the 1990s. Currently, we use PVC materials only in a few exceptional cases where we have not found viable alternatives yet. They account for less than one percent of our worldwide packaging expenditures. Our Packaging Engineers are working closely together with our packaging suppliers to find alternative materials.

We are committed to phasing out PVC in our consumer goods packaging by 2015, wherever technically feasible. We are actively tracking progress with regard to this objective within our product development systems.

Examples of sustainability in our packaging development

Le Chat Eco Gel — Optimized bottle for liquid laundry detergent concentrate
Since 2012, we have been offering highly concentrated liquid laundry detergent gel in a new bottle under the Le Chat brand in France and under the Persil brand in other European countries. The bottle weighs 43 percent less than a conventional one, which considerably reduces its carbon footprint.

Fa — Deodorant spray can made of recycled aluminum 
The production of aluminum cans is relatively energy-intensive. Since 2013, our Fa deodorant spray cans have contained roughly 10 percent recycled aluminum from industrial waste, which decreases the weight of the cans by 20 percent. In addition, the recycled material reduces the carbon footprint of the product.

Ceresit — Tiling adhesive packaging made of tear-proof polyethylene
Traditional paper sacks for tiling adhesives can rip easily during transport. Ceresit tiling adhesive now comes in packaging that is not only waterproof but tear-proof as well, thanks to the 20-kilogram sack made of 100 percent polyethylene (PE) that was introduced in 2012. The plastic sack also makes it possible to empty the tiling adhesive with Stop Dust technology leaving no residue behind.

Transport packages

Transport packages are developed so that pallets and containers can be optimally packed. The requirements of transport safety and transport capacity utilization impose limits on reductions in transport and secondary packaging. 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 re-usable transport containers and secondary packaging. One example is the return program for plastic containers (totes) used to transport industrial adhesives in the USA. Henkel established this program in 2010 in collaboration with the National Container Group (NCG). In keeping with the concept of “smarter packaging”, we offer ready-for-sale Dial hand soaps with displays on pallets and no secondary packaging.

Packaging waste and waste disposal

The packaging of our branded consumer products becomes household waste after use. Our packaging developers strive continuously to use less material without compromising on quality and stability. In Germany alone, we have thus been able to halve the volume of our packaging material since the 1980s.

Laundry detergents and household cleaners, as well as cosmetics and toiletries, pass into sewage systems after use. They are formulated by Henkel so that their use will not impact on the aquatic environment. Wastewater from industrial applications is pretreated using state-of-the-art technology to remove harmful substances and professionally disposed of.

Global Packaging Project

Since 2010, Henkel has participated in the Global Packaging Project (GPP) of the Consumer Goods Forum. The aim of the project is to develop standardized evaluation processes and indicators, with which packaging solutions can be analyzed with regard to their economic, ecological and social impacts. In 2011, the GPP developed a new tool called packCheck. This is a simple web-based application which allows packaging developers to check in just a few steps how a planned packaging innovation or modification measures up to the indicators defined by the GPP.

Last updated: March 6, 2013