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16-Jan-2019

An article by Hans Van Bylen, Henkel CEO

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

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.

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.

 

“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

Creating a circular economy

Sustainability is one of Henkel’s company values. We are committed to developing and using sustainable packaging solutions – and we’re going to continue to drive further progress in order to establish a circular economy for plastic.

Last year, in 2018, we announced our packaging strategy along with ambitious targets: By 2025, 100 percent of Henkel’s packaging will be recyclable, reusable or compostable*. At the same time, we will use 35 percent recycled plastic for our consumer goods products in Europe.

We take a holistic approach to achieving these targets and promoting a circular economy. Together with our partners along the entire value chain, we focus on including materials from sustainable sources into smart packaging designs to close the loop. Collaboration will be the key to success in driving innovation and promoting improved recycling infrastructure. A circular economy can’t be created by a single organization, business or government – it’s a joint responsibility. Progress toward a sustainable future will only be possible if stakeholders from all stages of the value chain work together. That’s why Henkel is engaged in several cross-industry initiatives.

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.

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