Henkel’s outlook for sustainability

The German multinational chemical and consumer goods company, Henkel has set an ambitious sustainability target for 2025. The brand is set to cut off half as much virgin plastic from fossil sources in its consumer products packaging while increasing the proportion of recycled plastic to more than 30 per cent.

25 Jun 2022 | By Janhavi Sisodia

Henkel's measure for circular economy

With a goal to make all of its packaging eco-friendly by 2025, Henkel has partnered with other companies keeping smart packaging in mind. WhatPackaging? lists seven measures that the company has taken to build a circular economy.

Completely recyclable packaging
Henkel collaborated with a social enterprise named Plastic Bank to minimise the amount of plastic garbage in the seas in 2017. The shared objective was to reduce plastic waste in the oceans while creating opportunities for people living in poverty. In 2021, Henkel launched the package for Nature Box which was made from 100% recyclable social plastic, a re-processed ocean-bound plastic feedstock. 

Henkel’s brands such as Diadem (Igora Royal) made hair colourations packaging with completely recyclable aluminium which resulted in a significant reduction of the carbon footprint for each tube.

The conversion of liquid products to solid products
The second outlook for the brand was changing liquid products to solid products. Solid goods have a set consistency which permits different types of packaging. This made Henkel come up with a wide variety of manufacturing and application possibilities

Henkel’s Naturale Antica Erborista (NAE), a cosmetic soap bar, offers the same coverage as three liquid wash gels. The conversion has aided in reducing carbon footprint.The soap bar comes in paper packaging made of FSC-certified material which is fully recyclable.

Persil’s Eco Power bar, a highly compressed product that comes in smaller cardboard packaging has fewer emissions, and the smaller form and lower weight allows more products to be transported. 

Reduce with refilling products
Refilling products saves new packaging material and uses less plastic. Henkel has introduced refill pouches, for liquid products which can be refilled at home or at refill stations in drugstores and supermarkets.

Love Nature, Henkel’s detergent and cleaning product brand can be refilled at over 50 refill stations in Germany. The brand was the first to offer this service across retailers in Germany in 2020. The body is made of 100 percent recycled plastic and can be fully recycled.

The initiative also involves providing refill stations in hair salons. Authentic Beauty Concept, by Henkel Beauty Care allows salons in Germany, Austria, and other European countries to refill their desired product repeatedly. 

Separation and debonding 
Recycling requires proper separation and debonding of materials. Henkel uses a special adhesive called Loctite Liofol during this process. The adhesive lets packaging layers separate without disintegrating them. Individual layers such as PE, aluminium and PET are then sorted and reintroduced to the value chain as high-quality materials that can be used again.

Smart design and resource conservation
With an efficient design, brands can help reduce wastage and increase resource conservation. Stark & Natürlich, a product range from Pril, consists of a pump dispenser and refill pouches. The design makes it easy to measure the right amount of detergent with one pulp.

Changing colourants for recyclability
For a long time, black plastic packaging challenged the recycling value chain. The improper identification by optical sensors at recycling facilities considered it as residual waste which led to the incineration. Henkel with the help of Ampacet introduced a different black colour in their chain to ensure recyclable black plastic packaging.

Finding sustainable alternatives 
Henkel Adhesive Technologies’ Epix provides additional functions to paper products such as barrier properties, thermal insulation, and resistance to mechanical impact. These properties help in food packaging and can be used to replace plastic applications.
With the use of KeelClip for outer packaging of beverage cans, plastic can be replaced by recycled and recyclable cardboard. KeelClip was developed by Graphic Packaging International (GPI) and uses Henkel adhesive technologies. This reduces plastic consumption and carbon emissions in the packaging life cycle. In addition, the outer packaging is easy to recycle, and it uses significantly less cardboard than most other solutions on the market.

Henkel has developed EasyD4R, a software that evaluates the recyclability of packaging based on its composition and the individual weight proportions of the respective components.

This is based on public and approved criteria catalogues and is used throughout Henkel. Its functionality is confirmed by an independent audit conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT. The recycling tool is available to other companies and organisations.