Ending plastic waste: Jointly addressing one of the world’s most urgent challenges

An article by Hans Van Bylen, Henkel CEO

Sustainability Responsibility 16 Jan 2019
Plastic Bank


Plastic is one of the most frequently discussed topics worldwide – for good reasons. Whether it’s marine litter or plastic pollution in rivers or on land, there’s no doubt that we need to end plastic waste in our environment. To achieve this, we need to take collective action!

Can't we just stop using plastic?

It’s important to understand that simply stopping the use of plastic is not a solution to this challenge. From liquid washing detergents through to shampoo and adhesives, plastic plays an important role in the packaging of our products – and there are good reasons for this. This material has many advantages: Plastics are robust and well-suited to protecting our products during transport, storage and use by our customers. They are lighter than alternative materials, which helps reduce fuel consumption and emissions during transport. And plastics allow packaging solutions that support optimal product dosages or safety for consumers and customers.

100% of Henkel‘s pack­ag­ing will be re­cycl­able, re­us­able or com­post­able, by 2025.

Plastic packaging from used products, however, has become an environmental challenge in many parts of the world – particularly in regions that still lack adequate collection and recycling infrastructure.

I am convinced that plastic waste is one of the world’s most urgent challenges. For this global challenge, we need to find global solutions. We all have a role to play. Everybody along the value chain who makes, uses, sells, processes, collects or recycles plastic. We need to join forces to protect the environment – for ourselves and for future generations.

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“As a global consumer goods and industrial company, we want to help end plastic waste. Developing sustainable solutions for this challenge will only be possible if we engage and collaborate across the entire value chain – from suppliers, trade partners, consumers and organizations through to governments.”
Hans Van Bylen, Henkel CEO

In fact, Henkel was our first partner, and the first global consumer goods company to join forces with Plastic Bank. Following the achievements of our partnership launched in 2017, we recently decided to extend our partnership by another 5 years. As part of this extension, Henkel will continue to support ongoing projects in Haiti, the Philippines and Indonesia and contribute to developing an infrastructure of more than 400 Plastic Bank collection points in Egypt. In 2020 alone, Henkel will help integrate more than 600 tons of the recycled material – called Social Plastic® – in its product packaging.

One way we’re driving a circular economy with Henkel is through the activation of dedicated waste collection centers in regions affected by plastic pollution. These dedicated centers serve as areas where local communities can return collected plastic waste and exchange it for basic family necessities such as groceries, cooking fuel, school tuition, and health insurance.

David Katz and Henkel employees at a beach clean-up event in San Juan, Puerto Rico in February 2020.

David Katz and Henkel employees at a beach clean-up event in San Juan, Puerto Rico in February 2020.

We want to increase the share of recycled plastic to 35% for our consumer goods products in Europe, by 2025.

Global “Alliance to End Plastic Waste”

As a recent step, nearly 30 global companies from the plastics and consumer goods value chain have formed a new alliance with a clear mission. The “Alliance to End Plastic Waste” will develop and bring to scale solutions that will minimize and manage plastic waste. It will also promote solutions for used plastics by transitioning to a circular value chain. Henkel is one of the founding members.

Henkel products


“Our decision to become a founding member of the Alliance reinforces our commitment to promoting a circular value chain for plastics, as demonstrated by our strategy and ambitious targets for sustainable packaging”.
Hans Van Bylen, Henkel CEO





Together, the Alliance has committed over a billion US dollars with the goal of raising 1.5 billion US dollars over the next five years. These funds will be used to develop and execute projects and individual investments that help end plastic waste.

Turning waste into opportunities

Our partnership with the Plastic Bank, a social enterprise aiming to stop ocean plastic and provide opportunities for people in poverty, is another example of how we can make a difference. The Plastic Bank builds collection centers in countries like Haiti that lack recycling infrastructure. Local communities can return collected plastic waste and exchange it for money, goods or services. With this approach, value is created from plastic and it doesn’t end up in waterways or oceans. The collected plastic is made available for recycling. Henkel has already successfully integrated this “Social Plastic” into selected packaging and we want to include more of it in our product packaging in the future as it becomes available.

We’re also participating in the New Plastics Economy: This initiative is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and brings stakeholders together to redesign the future of plastics and build momentum toward a circular economy.

Henkel has also invested 5 million British pounds into an impact fund from Circularity Capital to further promote a circular economy.

Alliance to End Plastic Waste (Logo)



Nearly 30 companies from the plastics and consumer goods value chain are part of the new “Alliance to End Plastic Waste”.


All of these examples underline the importance of collaboration with strong partners around the globe. We’re united by our shared commitment to successfully establishing a circular economy to end plastic waste.

We’re only at the beginning. But together, we can drive change and make an impact.

* excluding adhesive products where residue may affect recyclability