Waste Management Expo 2020 MAR 12&13 BIEC, Bengaluru, India

Need to see plastic as a raw material to be recycled or reused

4:52 AM, 14th January 2020

In an interview with Chemical Today Magazine, Thomas Mueller-Kirschbaum, Corp. Senior Vice President, Research & Development / Sustainability, Henkel talks about its global sustainable packaging strategy to achieve a circular economy for plastic waste management.

Measures being taken to address plastic waste concerns.

Henkel is committed to the vision of a climate-neutral and circular economy. We have defined a global sustainable packaging strategy. The major elements for a circular economy are to reduce the general amount of packaging material as much as possible, to source all packaging material from the most su stainable sources, to design our packaging for recycling, to motivate our consumers to recycle our packs and to use recycled packaging material. Across the globe, our Henkel teams are focused on four concrete commitments to achieve our vision for a circular economy:

- 100 percent paper/cardboard globally to be sustainably sourced or sourced from recycled material

- 100 percent of packaging globally to be recyclable, reusable or compostable

- 35 percent recycled plastic used for our European consumer goods in laundry, home care and beauty care by 2025

- 1 billion consumers informed about how to recycle our products

Our overall sustainability goal is to triple the value we create for the footprint made by our operations, products and services. We have educated all of our more than 50,000 employees on sustainability and Henkel’s sustainability commitments, and they in turn bring sustainability training to our customers and school children across the globe. We’re proud to say that we are a recognised leader across major global sustainability indices and rankings.

Ways in which companies can reduce use of plastic.

Henkel is deeply committed to prevent plastic waste through package design, improvements in waste collection and collaborative partnerships to reuse recovered plastic. Henkel is reducing the amount of plastic used to a minimum, through smart designs which include design for recycling. We also have programs that connect with various local and national governments to initiate waste collection systems. In other areas, Henkel is supporting waste collection itself, then recycling and reusing the material.

For example, through our collaborative partnership with the PlasticBank, Henkel was the first consumer products company to support these collection facilities. We started with plastic waste collection in Haiti, and we are reusing the material for bottles we are selling in Europe. At three collection centers in Haiti that have been built as part of the cooperation with Henkel, a total of around 63 metric tons of plastic has already been collected, sorted and subsequently introduced into the recycling value chain.

The PlasticBank business model is scalable in many ways. By expanding the number of collection centers, it has an immediate ecological impact by avoiding plastic leakage to the ocean, and it has a significant social impact as it provides much needed income to local impoverished people who are collecting the plastic waste. Henkel encourages other companies and interested stakeholders to help drive scale of this effort by collaborating with the PlasticBank to help increase its impact.

The combination of creating internal benchmarks and programs while also forming alliances with other organisations reaps results – we have already achieved having 80 percent of our packaging meet the criteria of being recyclable, reusable or compostable.

Innovations for a circular economy to reduce plastic waste.

Henkel has developed several very important innovations starting first with our four strong commitments for a circular economy which are driving innovation policies and business decisions. In order to find good designs for recycling we have developed a digital tool called “Easy D4R” , which integrates the major guidelines of a design for recycling. But we are not keeping it to ourselves -- we also want to support others in improving the recyclability of their packaging – and thus ultimately increasing the quality and quantity of recycled material on the market. Anybody interested can use the tool and download it from our website for free. It has already been downloaded by more than 1100 entities. In Europe, a leading retailer has also shared it with its over 200 suppliers as a tool for the design of their packaging.

In order to make packaging recyclable we collaborated with partners along the supply chain to overcome three important hurdles for recycling:

- We have found a substitute for a difficult to recycle colorant, carbon black. The new black dye allows the recognition and recycling of black colored plastic.

- We integrated an easy-to-use zipper for sleeved packs to make them recyclable. This allows consumers to easily separate the sleeve from the pack after use.

- We changed the first flexible packs from multiple material layers to mono material. With that change, some geographies now have the ability to recycle flexibles as well.

Innovative solutions to recycle ocean plastics.

In order to end plastic waste, it is important to think about plastic after use not as waste, but rather as a raw material which can be recycled or reused for the same or another purpose.

At the same time, Henkel also is committed to help in the solution of ocean plastics, with programs such as our partnership with the PlasticBank where we support plastic waste collection in Haiti, and we are reusing the material for bottles we are selling in Europe.

In addition, we are a founding member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. This global initiative with more than 40 member companies along the entire value chain is committed to spend $1.5 billion over five years to work against plastic waste in general and, in particular, to avoid plastic leakage in the ocean.

Safer alternatives for packaging material.

Henkel follows the major principle of best effectivity and efficiency when we select a material or a material combination. The packaging has to be effective in the sense of being the best material for the specific purpose. The efficiency principle drives towards the lowest ecological footprint, including GHG emission, water consumption, land use, etc. This can lead, for example, to a combination of plastic and paper. Our most innovative liquid single-dose laundry detergent (Persil® ProClean Discs) are packaged in very thin thermo-formed container which uses 40 percent less plastic. For stability reasons, we use a wrap-around of sustainably sourced paper. Both materials can be easily separated and recycled after use.

Also consumers can easily understand how to best recycle these materials through the How2Recyle® logo and information on our product package. Participating in the How2Recycle label program represents a significant milestone in Henkel’s ongoing commitment to sustainability. How2Recycle is a US-based standardised labeling system that communicates recycling instructions to the public. The system is a project of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition®, a membership-based group that brings together business, educational institutions, and government agencies to collectively broaden the understanding of packaging sustainability and develop meaningful improvements for packaging solutions. Our participation in the Coalition is another example of our collaboration to build scale and reach consumers.

In the US, Henkel has been partnering with international recycling leader TerraCycle® since 2016 for customers to recycle their used Henkel adhesive product packages instead of sending them to a landfill or incinerator. Recycled material from adhesives packages is melted and turned into pellets that can be used to manufacture new products – from garbage cans to park benches and outdoor furniture. Henkel was the first adhesive technologies company to offer this type of recycling program.

In Canada, we have teamed up with TerraCycle to create a free recycling program for Henkel’s Sunlight® and Purex® brand plastic detergent pouches. By purchasing Sunlight or Purex pouches in Canada and recycling the empty containers through the program, Canadian consumers can earn TerraCycle points redeemable for charity gifts or converted to cash and donated to the non-profit, school or charitable organisation of their choice.

In our adhesives business, we have developed a proprietary technology that enables the elimination of plastic from traditional “bubble mailers”, making them recyclable, to reduce the amount of packaging waste generated by the increasing trend of ecommerce. Henkel’s team of technical experts developed a single stream recyclable e-commerce mailer for Amazon. Along with being recyclable, the dimensions of the mailers are custom designed to optimise packaging and delivery efficiencies to cut back on emissions.

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