Home Energy/Environment Sustainable Practices for Eco-Friendly Labelling

Sustainable Practices for Eco-Friendly Labelling


Product labels touting environmental claims prompt scepticism if the label materials themselves show no sustainability merits. But conscientious brands have expanding options to print eco-conscious packaging on recycled, recyclable and responsibly sourced paper stocks. By rethinking label and sticker substrates beyond virgin materials, ethical companies manifest a commitment to ‘green’ manufacturing within full product lifecycles.

Current Label Stock Landscapes

Many label, sticker and hangtag materials come from fresh-cut timber pulp including specialty papers, varnishes and adhesives. Resulting industry waste plus effluents from paper mills and petrochemical-derived glues used in printing raises the question: Do non-sustainable labels undermine the credibility of the eco-messaging they carry?

Shifting consumer and regulatory demands for transparency make label substrates the latest battleground for eco-progress. Criticisms around label pollution impact pressure on brands to re-evaluate everything from fibres to inks to the print and apply label applicators used so their messaging aligns with sustainable production principles. As awareness grows that the downstream impacts of label printing matter, recycling strategies and bio-based, upcycled alternatives gain appeal.

Recycled: Repurposing Production Waste

An easy first step towards sustainable labels uses recycled content from pre-consumer waste otherwise going to landfills. Scraps and cuttings recycled back into new paper-pulp help minimise fresh harvesting for virgin timber, cotton and plants. As awareness spreads about supply chain consequences, recycled label material adoption grows.

Steadily improving recycled stock options balance processing needs like brightness, smoothness, ink adhesion and runability on modern printers. Though maximal recycled content often bests 90%, most contain around 30-40% repurposed fibres mingled with some virgin pulp for optimal functionality. Blending also incorporates alternative plant fibres from agricultural residues like straw or sugar cane waste which is otherwise burnt or slow to biodegrade.

Eco-conscious printers and print and apply label applicators offer recycled papers and bioplastic labels adhering to recognised sustainability standards like FSC and SFI. Major certification labels outline criteria around ethical fibre sourcing plus manufacturing carbon offsets to substantiate recycled material claims. Overall, recycled and upcycled label stocks bring both environmental savings and credibility to eco-marketing initiatives.

Compostable and Biodegradable Innovations

Beyond recycling, some pioneering eco-labels use alternative, bio-based materials designed to fully break down after use rather than accumulate waste. These often leverage renewable feedstocks like cellulosic sugars and starches or polyesters derived from microbe fermentation processes for printing adhesive tags, stickers, tape and packaging. Such biologically sourced inputs help curb reliance on fossil fuels while meeting industrial-composting standards for sustainability.

Many novel biodegradable labels utilise plant-based fibres expected to decompose back into organic matter without persistent microplastic pollution common for conventional petrochemical plastics used in paper glues and polymer coatings. However, ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ lack legal definitions before making unqualified claims. Thankfully, several recognised water-soluble and compostable label certifications benchmark label composition, coatings and adhesion to define proper end-of-life management.

For eco-conscious branding and impact communications, label production matters. Any sustainability pledges printed risk accusations of greenwashing if they are not backed by environmentally-conscious practices including conscientious substrate sourcing. Fortunately, improved material options make sustainable packaging labels more accessible than ever.


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