The current progress report issued by the internationally known Ellen MacArthur Foundation clearly shows that the medium-sized company Werner & Mertz not only set lofty goals for recycling use, but also has taken a worldwide lead in implementation.
Those goals—by 2025 all packaging will be 100% recyclable and made of 100% post-consumer recyclate and no new plastic will be used—were first announced by Werner & Mertz at the Our Oceans Conference on Malta in 2017. One year later, the Mainz cleaning products company officially pledged to meet those goals as part of the New Plastic Economy Global Commitment. Within the framework of the initiative led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, more than 500 signatories around the world have committed to achieving ambitious targets for the sake of a functioning circular plastics economy. Among them are companies that account for 20 percent of the world’s total plastic packaging, governments, investors and other organisations. All signatories have committed to achieving a common vision:
- Elimination of all problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging
- Advancement of innovations so that the plastic we need is reusable, recyclable or compostable.
- Keeping plastic in a closed cycle so that it cannot land in the environment and cause damage there
Implementation of the goals is documented annually in a progress report. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation released the third progress report in mid-November.
More than 540 million plastic bottles of 100% Post Consumer Recyclate to date
While many of the signatories strive to convert their plastic packaging to PCR for only some of their products or brands, Werner & Mertz is one of the few pursuing the goal of converting all packaging to 100% recyclate. The Mainz-based company has shown that it is equal to the challenge. Thus far, 53.9% of all plastic packaging throughout the entire portfolio is now made of 100% used plastic.
Werner & Mertz has converted all the transparent PET bottles for the Frosch brand to 100% used plastic. For the company’s entire brand assortment, which includes Frosch, emsal floor care, Erdal shoe care and Professional Division brands, the rPET rate stands at 99.2%. In addition to post-consumer material from the European deposit bottle collection (Bottle to Bottle), the company has used, since 2014, a high share of recycled material from the Yellow Bag (now at 50%). To date, more than 540 million such bottles have been put in the retail market – a world record!
Currently the recyclability of the entire product portfolio is at 74.3%, according to the New Plastics Economy 2021 Recycling Study. Another example of the company’s pioneering work is the successful launch in 2019 of a stand-up pouch that complies completely with Design for Recycling guidelines. The pouch is the first flexible packaging in the world to achieve GOLD in all categories on the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Scorecard.
In its progress report, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation repeatedly singles out Werner & Mertz as a highlight. Werner & Mertz is the only signatory in its sector that will do without virgin plastic completely by 2025. The medium-sized company has already distinguished itself from others in the industry by using the highest share of Post-Consumer Recyclates (PCR) in its packaging.
As early as 2009, Werner & Mertz began using recycled plastic for its packaging and since 2014 the company has obtained used plastic from the Yellow Bag. The company now holds the world record with more than 540 million bottles made of 100% post- consumer recyclate. Graphic Copyright: Werner & Mertz
Next Step: PP
Now that PET packaging for all brands has been almost completely converted to 100% recycled plastic, the company wants to move ahead with the conversion of the caps made of polypropylene (PP). Once again, in its pioneering role, Werner & Mertz has given up the iconic green cap of its Frosch brand as an identifying feature and converted to a transparent, colorless cap in the interest of optimized recyclability. The company already makes a large share of its HDPE bottles from 100% post-consumer recyclate. In addition, the shower gel bottles for the Frosch Senses brand have been made of 100% recycled HDPE from the Yellow Bag since 2019 – a world-first in the cosmetic industry. In a joint study conducted with the cosmetic company Beiersdorf and the Fraunhofer Institute, Werner & Mertz has made available the lessons learned about the use of recyclate in cosmetic packaging in the hope of encouraging imitators. “The recyclability of packaging makes sense only when recyclate can be put to high-quality use. In recent years the use of recyclate in packaging has increased too little, as shown by the data in the current progress report. Unfortunately, fresh crude oil, which enjoys tax exemptions, is still less expensive than Post Consumer Recyclate and that’s why many companies continue to use virgin plastic in their packaging. Voluntary commitments by a few companies cannot achieve climate protection goals. Governmental action is called for here,” says Reinhard Schneider, owner of Werner & Mertz.