The new wash-off label adhesive ensures clean separation. (Image: Dow)
How labels are becoming more recyclable
A world without labels? Inconceivable. The endless variety of materials, shapes and functions used to produce labels help products stand out on the shelves, convey information, provide confidence and make products traceable. The growing circular economy is also increasing the importance of recyclability as an issue.
Labels are usually made up of three basic elements: the face material, the adhesive layer and the backing material. The face material of environmentally friendly labels is already made with bioplastic, hemp or grass paper, or even stone liner, which is created by combining powder from ground stones with recycled polyethylene. There’s an equally wide variety of adhesives that bind the face material to the backing layer. Water-based and wash-off, bio-based, compostable or low-migration – the choice is broad. The backing material, in turn, helps protect the labels from production to processing at the customer’s site and usually consists of plastic films or silicone-coated papers.
The label material is produced entirely from post-consumer recyclate. (Image: Herma)
For a new label stock – a ready-coated composite consisting of different ingredients – Herma recently selected all three main components based on the lowest possible resource consumption: The PE label material is made entirely from post-consumer recyclate, the contact adhesive leaves no carbonfootprint and the sustainable release liner has been newly developed.
"This new adhesive material shows what’s already possible in practice today. It’s neither a concept study nor a feasibility study but a product that’s available for immediate delivery – for example, for sustainable flagship projects with labels."
Marcus Gablowski, Chief Sustainability Officer at Herma
Herma rPE PCR white is used as the label stock. Only plastics from post-consumer recycling (PCR) are used to make this white PE film – no virgin granules are added. The origin of the label material is apparent from the so-called spots. That makes the new adhesive compound ideal for labels that want to emphasise their recycled credentials and are preferably used on PE surfaces. Herma and BASF worked together to develop the new 72F contact adhesive specifically for this adhesive material. Its carbon footprint is zero(Zero PCF) – from its inception to BASF’s factory gate. In line with the approach that uses a biomass balance sheet, the basic materials required for its production are partly drawn from biomass that has been sourced from organic waste and not from fossil raw materials. The plants used to make it extract climate-damaging CO2 from the atmosphere during their growth phase. TÜV Rheinland Energy GmbH is an independent certification body and has confirmed the PCF calculation for the contact adhesive used. Herma says that the contact adhesive offers environmental benefits without label-printing companies and users having to make any compromises where quality is concerned. This new type of backing material, which is being used for the first time in the world, has also been designed to help reduce resource consumption as far as possible. Details are, however, currently still confidential, the company said.
Wash-off label adhesives enable high-quality recycling outputs to be achieved. Image: Dow
Wash-off label adhesive
Film labels that cannot be properly separated from the labelled items impair the recycling process, sometimes considerably. Wash-off adhesives are one option that could help labels to be removed cleanly and therefore maintain high recycling output qualities. The new wash-off label adhesive by the chemical company Dow, for example, combines recycling-friendly design with good adhesive performance. The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) has stated that the Invisum 7007 contact adhesive meets the Critical Guidance Protocol for the recycling of clear PET items with film labels and caps.
"Processors need reliable label solutions for efficient adhesion and high production speeds while recyclers want the purest possible recycling results to increase their yields. Making more applications recyclable and achieving better recycling results will increase recycling rates and reduce the need for fossil fuels to the benefit of all"
David Keely, Application Technology Leader Adhesives at Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics
At the last interpack trade fair, CCL Label – which supplies special labels – presented label solutions that have been designed to simplify the recycling of primary packaging. Its ‘Sustainable Label Family’ includes labels and sleeves that have been created to improve the recycling of PET bottles, returnable glass bottles and other types of packaging, such as HDPE and PP containers. The different labels feature integrated functions that facilitate sorting and recycling because they float, shrink and peel off easily.
"Many of the solutions in the sustainable label family, such as the low-density polyolefin Shrink Sleeve EcoFloat, the Pressure-Sensitive Label (PSL) label for returnable glass bottles, WashOff and EcoStream that have been designed for recycling PET bottles, have been endorsed by the European PET Bottle Platform (EPBP) and fulfil the RecyClass recommendations. We’re active members in these organisations to ensure that our label innovations comply with the official Design for Recycling guidelines because we want to help increase the recycling of FMCG products."
Marika Knorr, Head of Sustainability&Communication
The currently thinnest stretch sleeve available on the market, with a thickness of just 30 microns, was also premiered at the trade fair. It has been developed specifically for the returnable one-litre PET bottles that are typically used in the German mineral water market. The material is very thin, which means that fewer raw materials are needed for its production and that it therefore reduces the carbonfootprint accordingly. It’s possible to apply the sleeve to the container without the use of heat or energy because it bonds to the container through its own elasticity.
Premium recycled fibre labels
Avery Dennison is also responding to the growing demand for sustainable labelling and packaging solutions with new premium label papers that have been made from recycled and alternative fibres. The range consists of three new papers that are produced from 100% recycled fibres and one paper that is manufactured with fast-growing hemp fibres. The latter offers a sustainable alternative to conventional pulp-based papers and consists of up to 50% hemp fibre, which is sourced regionally from France and Germany and which can be harvested up to seven times a year. Its high grammage makes it ideal for labels with embossed or unembossed details. The label papers have been created for the premium packaging segment, including wine and spirits, craft beverages, gourmet foods, cosmetics and fragrances.
Its high grammage makes the paper that is manufactured from recycled and alternative fibres ideal for use for labels with embossed or unembossed details. Image: Avery Dennison
"The incorporation of such sustainable options means that our Sustainable ADvantage portfolio is able to help brands reduce their environmental footprint and move towards a more sustainable and circular economy."
Vladimir Tyulpin, Marketing Manager Premium Solutions at Avery Dennison
Sappi has launched two new CCK papers, which, among other applications, are used as backing material for self-adhesive labels. Compared with the polyethylene-coated kraft (PCK) papers that are usually used, Sappi’s products promise a significantly improved carbon footprint due to the elimination of the otherwise usual plastic coating, greater recycling capabilities and considerable cost savings.