How Labeling Impacts Recyclability

How Labeling Impacts Recyclability

Labeling Impacts Recyclability

The label is one of the smallest parts of a product package however brands committed to sustainability are scrutinizing everything that impacts recyclability – the containers, coatings, closures, and yes – label materials. The basic fact that labels are on the container makes them crucial to recyclability.

PSPs Take Note, Recycling is Here to Stay

Recycling is here to stay. In fact, a large number of consumers are making purchasing decisions based on sustainable products and services. Print Service Providers (PSPs) need to get with the program and consider making their manufacturing decisions based on sustainability. That might be a hard pill to swallow but in the long run it could affect the bottom line.

PSPs who are educated about the things that promote recyclability can assist brands by making sure their packaging has the best chance of being recycled without polluting the recycle stream. The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) has created specific protocols for labeling to increase the chance that containers will be recycled.

Label Characteristics Affect Recyclability

The labeling characteristics that impact successful container sorting include film type, label coverage and metallization. Proper sorting is essential to an efficient and effective recycling process. Label material can have a dramatic effect on sortation.

The size of the label can be a problem in recyclability. Sorting equipment must be able to tell container color beneath the label and a large label on a container can hinder the process. The APR has assembled recommendations regarding coverage percentages for PET containers. For containers that are 550 ml or less, coverage area should be < 55 percent. Containers above 550 ml can have up to 70 percent. No guidelines have been set for HDPE containers.

As far as metallization is concerned, recycling equipment is designed to detect and eliminate metal. Even a very thin metalized label can cause a container to be eliminated. Keep in mind, label materials must be compatible with the process specific to the container they are on. Using the wrong film can cause containers to be removed, decreasing recycling yield.

PSPs committed to this movement could start utilizing label materials recognized by the APR for PET container recyclability. Label size and artwork should be considered because they impact sort ability as stated before. Fortunately, recycling HDPE is easier than PET. It is not necessary to separate the label from the container. The containers are cleaned and shredded and incorporated into the new material.

Unfortunately, paper labels are always damaging to plastic container recycling. Paper taints the wash water resulting in quality reduction. In addition, the hot bath used in PET recycling transforms paper labels into pulp that cannot be filtered. Small fibers remain which results in undesirable quality. PSPs can take a look at APRs requirements for label recyclability and where it is headed. This is a new way of thinking for many folks but one that is here to stay.

Tamarack® Film Patching, Form and Label Making Equipment with Value

Tamarack® Products was founded in 1969 and is a leading global manufacturer of specialized equipment used in the business form, label, and packaging industries. Tamarack designs, engineers, and manufactures machinery and equipment for offline and inline film/window patching, RFID inlay insertion systems, web finishing equipment and more. We offer more than 50 years of experience in designing, engineering, and manufacturing patching, gluing, and die cutting equipment that adds value with elements such as see-through windows in envelopes and cartons, RFID inlay insertion, and adding labels and cards to business forms.

Tamarack® offers customized equipment solutions designed with flexibility and modularity to grow with your process. Our technicians provide quality service and installation including in-depth knowledge of servo-programming and servo-driven equipment. Contact us with any questions on meeting your sustainability and recycling goals with your form or label making process.


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