Enabling Recycling

Friday, February 17, 2017 1:54 pm PST


Jeroen Diderich, Vice President and General Manager, Label and Graphic Materials Europe

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a circular economy is one that is restorative and regenerative by design, and aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times. The concept counters the “take, make and dispose” economic model, which centers on using large quantities of cheap and easily accessed materials and energy. A circular economy seeks to rebuild capital - financial, human, manufactured, social and/or natural - to improve the flow of goods and services.

Label manufacturers have the opportunity to re-think and re-design products that contribute to a circular economy by helping converters and their customers cost effectively reduce their environmental impact while strengthening their brands. Change begins on the inside - inside companies, products and communities - with changes implemented at the local or regional level offering the potential to instigate change around the world.

Waste represents one of the most significant challenges within the label industry and is both a responsibility and a high-priority opportunity. Reducing waste requires the use of recyclable materials and providing customers the recycling information they need to help maximize recovery and recycling rates.

According to Eco Watch, 50 percent of the plastic products that are purchased in the U.S. are used just once and then thrown away. Enough plastic is thrown away every year to circle the globe four times. And ngo Ocean Crusaders reported that  100,000 marine creatures a year die from plastic entanglement and these are the ones found and approximately 1 million seabirds also die from plastic.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a resin used to manufacture a variety of products, including plastic bottles. According to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), about 31 percent of the plastic bottles manufactured in the United States contain PET.

Even though PET is highly recyclable, PET-derived plastic bottles will continue to occupy American landfills, with a projected 40 billion pounds of PET waste added to landfills during the next decade if consumer and manufacturer recycling continues at the present rate. The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) reports that only one-third of all PET-based plastic bottles make it into a recycling stream.

The good news is that up to 100 percent of a PET container can be made from recycled PET, with no limit as to the number of times PET materials can be reused in container applications. Creating a sustainable application solution requires brands, packaging designers and manufacturers to produce PET packaging that works in harmony with the recycling stream, especially the sink/float washing process.

The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) recommends that label manufacturers choose packaging materials that conform to the APR Design™ Guide for Plastics Recyclability, which includes labels that float in water, inks that will not bleed and adhesives that do not disperse on the PET regrind.


Avery Dennison developed its CleanFlake portfolio to advance PET container recycling. The portfolio features a water-based, recyclable adhesive that cleanly separates during the recycling process. The adhesive continues to adhere to the PET bottle to the end of its lifecycle, when the cohesive bond is broken at the recycler during the sink/float process. The facestock and adhesive cleanly separate from the PET flake, resulting in pure PET flakes that can be recycled. The CleanFlake™ portfolio contains a range of clear and white paper and film label materials designed specifically to increase PET container recycling.

Despite advances in recycling, the challenge exists to solve the downstream waste impacts associated with self-adhesive labeling materials. Matrix waste remains after labels are trimmed and die-cut from large material rolls. Liner waste, including silicone-backed materials, remains after label application. The label and packaging industry must address both of these aspects of label production waste.

Manufacturers are collaborating with converter customers, brand owners and waste management partners to develop solutions to recover and recycle matrix and liner waste. From our perspective, this is important for the industry … and we’re proud to be part of the answer.

Preview Image: 
Jeroen Diderich