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Environmentally-conscious containers and packaging [EN1]

Containers and packaging serve an important role and function as part of our products, protecting contents and preserving quality during transport and providing a wide range of information to consumers using the products. As part of our “eco together” activities, we are promoting environmentally conscious containers and packaging.

2015 activities

Aiming for containers and packaging with little environmental impact, Kao has reduced the cardboard used in refill packaging for products including Wide Haiter and Bath Magiclean. Bio-polyethylene was adopted in Merit Shampoo and Conditioner bottles, and new refill packaging for highly viscous products were developed and introduced that are both more user-friendly and environmentally friendly.


At Kao, we are working to reduce the environmental impact imposed by containers and packaging by promoting product development technology from the perspective of the 4R’s: Reduce, Renewable, Reuse, and Recycle.
In terms of “Reduce,” we welcome even minor successes in lightening product weight, making bottle walls thinner, concentrating products to make them more compact, and downsizing products, all with the aim of reducing the volume of packaging materials used.
Our “Renewable” initiatives include converting from petroleum-based resins to renewable, plant-based raw materials such as polyactide and bio-polyethylene.
Initiatives to “Reuse” products include proactive development of refill and replacement products to allow reuse of original containers.
Finally, “Recycle” initiatives involve proactive efforts to use recycled materials such as recycled paper and recycled resin.
These efforts are led by our Package Development Research and promoted in cooperation with related divisions, external suppliers and other partners.


Reducing container and packaging materials

Reducing container and packaging materials not only reduces environmental impact, but also leads to cost reductions. In an example from 2015, we reduced CO2 emissions by about 780 tons by reducing the amount of cardboard used in refill packaging for products including Wide Haiter and Bath Magiclean. In all of 2015, there were 39 such instances in which reductions in container and packaging materials resulted in a reduction in environmental impact, leading in turn to an about 2,400-ton reduction in CO2 emissions per year and an annual drop in costs of about 250 million yen.
The amount of container and packaging materials used in 2015 decreased from 2014 despite increased sales volume. This is attributed to the increased sales volume of refill products.

Volume of container and packaging materials used(Unit:tons)
  2005 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Plastic 49,200 53,100 54,300 54,600 56,500 56,000
Paper 26,100 17,900 17,400 16,000 14,700 13,900
Cardboard 65,600 69,300 69,700 69,600 73,800 76,100
Others 3,800 2,000 1,900 4,300 3,900 2,400
Total 144,700 142,300 143,300 144,500 148,900 148,400
CO2 emissions (1,000t/year) 293 336 343 327 335 339
Per unit (of sales) reduction rate 0% 19% 14% 16% 15% 16%
  • *Boundary: Kao Corporation

Received 2015 WorldStar Award for environmental design of Wide Haiter EX Power

Due to the nature of the product, the container for Wide Haiter EX Power needs to be able to suppress bottle deformation caused by rises in internal pressure. The previous product bottle’s design ensured mechanical strength by adjusting the bottle thickness. This award-winning bottle attains the same level of mechanical strength as the previous bottle but with a 13% reduction in resin volume. Simulations to calculate mechanical strength were used to achieve the design of seven indented ribs on the front and back of the bottle to suppress deformation. The horizontal ribs also fit the fingers when holding the bottle, which improves its universal design by preventing the bottle from slipping.
These attributes earned the bottle the WorldStar Award 2015 in the Household category. The WorldStar Awards have been presented every year since 1970 by the World Packaging Organisation (WPO), a major international federation in the packaging industry.


Switching to renewable raw materials

In 2012, Kao began to convert from petroleum-based resins to plant-based raw materials that are renewable and have little environmental impact. Introducing plant-based materials into the Merit Shampoo refill packaging at this time involved switching 10% of the bottle by weight from petroleum-based polyethylene to bio-polyethylene. The bio-polyethylene is made from renewable ethanol obtained by fermenting the waste residue remaining after producing sugar from intentionally cultivated sugar cane. This plastic is attracting attention due to its low environmental impact, as the CO2 emitted when the plastic is incinerated is deemed zero. Using this plastic in the Merit Shampoo refill packaging reduced the packaging’s CO2 emissions by about 12% over the previous product. We subsequently adopted bio-polyethylene in almost all other refill packaging for hair care products.
In the label for Healthya Green Tea 350ml bottles, we adopted a shrink film containing more than 50% polylactic acid (PLA) made from corn.
In 2015, we newly switched to using bio-polyethylene for 30% of the bottles for Merit Shampoo and Conditioner by weight. This can reduce the packaging’s CO2 emissions by about 23% over the previous products.
At Kao, we will continue switching packaging to renewable raw materials such as bio-polyethylene and polylactic acid.

Merit Shampoo and Conditioner bottles that switched to 30% bio-polyethylene by weight


Promoting refill and replacement products

Since Kao introduced its first refill product in 1991, their number has continued to grow, and as of December 2015 had reached 243 products. Kao has also continued to make improvements in these refill products according to bottle size, the viscosity of the contents and so on to make refilling packaging easier for the consumer.
Since 1997, the ratio of refill products to unit sales has rapidly increased, and is currently at more than 80% (based on number of units). For example, the refill ratio for fabric softener and fabric bleach now stands at more than 90%. All of the refill and replacement products sold in 2015 represent a reduction in plastic use of more than 70,000 tons compared to if they had been packaged in original containers (products in plastic containers).
In 2015, we developed the new refill packaging, which is both environmentally friendly and easy to use. This new pack is used for refill packaging of highly viscous products such as shampoos and conditioners. Its film is about 18% thinner than existing products, and the pouring spout is made from about 50% bio-polyethylene.
Shaped like a bottle, the pack can hold the same volume as existing refill products but in a slimmer and more compact shape. This not only makes it easier to handle in transport and at stores, but also makes it easier to refill quickly without wasting or spilling. From manufacturing to use and disposal, the new pack reduces CO2 emissions generated in these processes by about 3%.

Refill products

Start of introduction of first FSC® certified cardboard in Japan

The Kao Group began to introduce FSC® certified cardboard for the first time in Japan in 2016. This certification is from the Forest Stewardship Council and given to paper and wood products that use forest resources from properly managed forests that incorporate considerations for conservation of rain forests and biodiversity.
Kao has incorporated FSC® certified paper as the backing paper for packaging with a thin film cover. However, about half of the paper and pulp that we purchase worldwide is used in cardboard. Including FSC® certified cardboard will greatly increase the environmental considerations of our business activities given the high volume of cardboard use.
The new FSC® certified cardboard is being introduced in stages starting in March 2016. At the end of 2016, we plan to use about 50% FSC® certified cardboard in the cardboard we use globally.

Initiative to use raw materials from forest sources with zero forest destruction

Example of FSC® certified logo

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