One of the most significant challenges that manufacturers and major brands face today is maintaining high sustainability standards across their entire supply and production chain. It’s no new idea that consumer brands that have not embraced sustainability and CSR initiatives are at risk on many fronts, but integrating more environmentally sound and socially responsible processes requires sweeping infrastructure changes that many businesses may have difficulty implementing and sustaining.
Striving to mitigate costs and reduce uncertainty, businesses are constantly presented with prohibitive obstacles that, like most institutional challenges, boil down to a matter of economics. Companies and manufacturers are concerned about their bottom line and may see little economic incentive to reallocate resources necessary to improve the sustainability of their supply chain.
However, some companies see the massive ROI potential for setting their own bar on sustainability and keeping it high, giving themselves room to scale for growth.
For example, Henkel is one of TerraCycle’s newest corporate partners; because of the partnership, it is now the first company to offer a recycling solution for anaerobic adhesive packaging. Through the LOCTITE® Anaerobic Adhesive Recycling Program, Henkel customers can now purchase a postage-paid recycling box that they fill with empty LOCTITE adhesive containers to send to TerraCycle for processing. TerraCycle will thermally treat the containers and turn them into new plastic products, such as park benches, chairs, watering cans and even paving stones.
A global industry leader undertaking such an extensive recycling initiative is impressive, as recycling anaerobic adhesive packaging is not without its challenges - these containers are not accepted by the conventional waste management infrastructure due to the residual adhesive. Learning about the adhesives and how they cure allowed us at TerraCycle to develop a solution and recycle this category of material for the first time.
To recycle the used bottles (comprised of polyethylene [PE] plastic), an industrial oven system is used to cure the residual adhesives through careful temperature and atmosphere control. From there, the more established recycling processes of shredding, washing, drying, and pelletization of the recycled plastics can occur.
TerraCycle is exploring other potential applications of this technology with other difficult-to-recycle materials, and is working closely with Henkel to expand the list of different adhesive technologies (and their packaging) that can be recycled. When you consider the number of products that use adhesives, the size of this recycling challenge – and opportunity - is immense, and touches every industry.
Through the partnership, Henkel is changing the trajectory of its industrial waste materials from conventional, linear disposal towards a circular solution, providing consumers a new recycling option for industrial materials typically considered non-recyclable.
What this partnership also does is connect manufacturer and distributor with the end-user via supply chain management. Many of Henkel’s trusted distributors, the entities that actually sell the products to businesses, list Henkel’s recycling boxes on their websites, and some of them, such as Baltimore-based R.S. Hughes, are going above and beyond to take the effort and the guesswork out of recycling the products they sell. This kind of top-down implementation is essential to supply chain sustainability, and creates value for the consumers and stakeholders that support this process with their wallets.
One of Henkel’s core sustainability goals is to triple efficiency by 2030 by reducing its products’ environmental footprint at every stage of its lifecycle, a strategy the company calls “straightforward yet ambitious.” While its Anaerobic Adhesive Recycling Program aligns with that initiative, accountability is the star ingredient in fortifying the sustainability of Henkel’s supply chain, creating a common understanding of the challenges the manufacturer faces and making way for comprehensive, effective solutions at every level.
Fully realizing the growth potential, brand enhancement, capital efficiency and profitability of integrating sustainability into core business practices such as supply chain management allows companies such as Henkel to “do more with less,” challenging the very challenges that implicate businesses in the global product economy.