Henkel has developed, in collaboration with masterbatch producer Ampacet, a black plastics package that is fully recyclable and does not use carbon black colour. This, say the companies, enables used bottles to be integrated back into the value chain.

The solution is being rolled out with black bottles of toilet cleaning products under the Bref brand this month, following by further Henkel products during the course of the year.

“Recognising that black bottles are one of the central challenges when it comes to recyclability of used packaging, we want to be part of the solution. The new material will contribute to closing the loop of plastics packaging in a sustainable way,” says Vineet Varman, head of international packaging development for Special Detergents at Henkel Laundry & Home Care. “Our joint development projects across all our three business units underline Henkel’s commitment to sustainable packaging and to drive progress toward a circular value chain.”

Recycling plants use near infra-red (NIR) technology to identify the plastics materials to be recycled. The optical sensors utilise the reflection of light to detect the material and sort it accordingly. Black plastics packaging, however, due to presence of carbon black cannot be identified and sorted properly by these optical sensors. As a result, many brands and retailers have moved away from black plastics.

Cyclos-HTP, an institute specialised in the classification, assessment and certification of recyclability of packaging and goods, certified that Henkel’s bottles with this carbon-free black colour are fully detectable and sortable. As a next step, Henkel is driving the integration of recycled content in the packaging.

Philippe Hugelé, Ampacet’s strategic business manager for moulding, said: “As part of our sustainability initiative, our REC-NIR-BLACK carbon-black free masterbatch provides a second life for black plastics packaging by allowing scanning by near-infrared technology for automated sorting at recovery facilities. We are pleased to be able to contribute to packaging recyclability for Henkel’s iconic brands.”

By 2025, Henkel wants all of its packaging to be recyclable, reusable or compostable. It also wants to increase the share of recycled plastics to 35 per cent for its consumer goods products in Europe by 2025.