According to home care, beauty care, and adhesive products company Henkel, recyclable packaging is a prerequisite for a functioning circular economy. In order to quickly and reliably determine the recyclability of new packaging, the company uses its specially developed software tool, EasyD4R. Henkel has now made this assessment tool publicly available on its website so that more companies and organizations can use it to more easily develop sustainable packaging solutions.
“We want to promote open collaboration and accelerate the transition to a circular economy,” says Dr. Thorsten Leopold, Head of International Packaging Development for Home Care products at Henkel. “This can only succeed if all participants along the value chain cooperate—especially with clear definitions and consistent evaluations. By sharing our assessment tool, we want to contribute to the recyclability of packaging.”
The software tool EasyD4R is based on public and recognized criteria catalogs such as those from Plastics Recyclers Europe and is used by Henkel throughout the company. The goal of the tool is to quickly and accurately assess the recyclability of packaging during the early stages of product development. The tool has undergone independent testing by Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT, whose scientists analyzed the evaluation software and its results and compared them with national and international standards.
The software evaluates the recyclability of packaging based on its composition and the individual weight proportions of the respective components such as basic materials, closures, labels, or colors. For all materials in question, the tool stores information on the suitability for identification during sorting and for processing during recycling. On this basis, EasyD4R shows clear results displayed on a traffic-light evaluation system: It provides information on the recyclability of each design as a percentage and the material combinations that can be optimized for recycling. By doing so, it supports the development of sustainable packaging solutions.
“With this tool, the recyclability of product packaging can be evaluated very well,” says Dr.-Ing. Markus Hiebel, Head of Sustainability and Resource Management at Fraunhofer UMSICHT. “We are delighted that companies like Henkel are taking their responsibility seriously and making a contribution to the development of recyclable packaging.”
Standard for suppliers to German drugstore chain
Since the beginning of 2019, Henkel has been sharing its evaluation tool with other companies and organizations upon request. Henkel also presented the tool to the members of the Rezyklat-Forum (forum recyclate), initiated by German drugstore chain dm-drogerie markt. The 32 members comprise retailers, manufacturers, disposal contractors, and packaging manufacturers that represent the entire value chain along the circular economy. Their feedback was very positive, and dm-drogerie markt established the EasyD4R tool as a standard for all its suppliers.
“Together with our partners in the Rezyklat-Forum, we are committed to avoiding and reducing plastic packaging, increasing the recycling quota, and strengthening the use of recycled material. For that, it is important to facilitate the current systems for a circular economy, to ensure that product packaging used by consumers can be fully recycled again. The EasyD4R tool from Henkel makes a very important contribution to that,” says Sebastian Bayer, Speaker of the Rezyklat-Forum and Managing Director for Marketing and Procurement at dm drogerie-markt.
Committed to sustainable packaging
In its packaging strategy, Henkel has set itself the goal to make all packaging recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025—with the exception of adhesive products where residue may affect recyclability or pollute recycling streams. The proportion of recycled plastic used in packaging for consumer goods products in Europe should increase to 35%.
“As a manufacturer using plastic as an important packaging material, we assume our responsibility. We have already made a lot of progress, but at the same time, there is a lot more to do,” says Dr. Leopold. “Therefore, in addition to implementing our packaging strategy, we are involved in numerous cross-industry initiatives and cooperations to promote new solutions.”