We go out of our way to ensure that the packaging we supply is as eco-friendly as possible, within the remits of its material and intended use. Whilst we know we’ll never be able to supply 100% domestic recyclable packaging across the range (well, not as long as there’s demand for the traditional poly shippers, anyway), we do try our best to limit our footprint on the environment and encourage reuse and recycling wherever possible. So we do find it frustrating when we know that, despite our best efforts, the labels stuck on after we’ve sold our packaging on may not be eco-friendly, or not fixed on with eco-friendly glue.
People tend to think more about the materials they can see and use rather than the ones they can’t or that only serve one purpose; in this case, address/packaging labels and the glue being used to hold them in place. Whilst eco-friendly products in both categories do exist, they’re not always readily available or easy to identify on the shelves.
What Makes an Eco-Friendly Label?
For a label to be classed as “eco-friendly” it should have one or more of the following attributes:
- Be recyclable
- Be made of recycled materials
- Be made of waste material
- Be wood free
- Be biodegradable
- Be compostable
Ideally you want a label that ticks as many of these as possible; for example, it is possible to buy labels made from wood pulp or sugar cane bi products that would otherwise be wasted. These are biodegradable, recyclable and compostable. Other label products can be made from wood free paper, which is OK to compost and biodegradable as well.
What Makes an Eco-Friendly Adhesive?
Some labels are self-adhesive so you would hope that an eco-friendly label uses eco-friendly glue, but just be sure that they do. For it to be meet this criteria, it should have one or more of the following attributes:
- Be PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) free
- Be petrochemical free (chemicals derived from petroleum such as ethylene, propylene and benzene)
- Be non-toxic
- Be made from natural materials
It is possible to buy adhesives or adhesive tapes as a separate product to use with labels that are not self-adhesive.
Making the Eco-Friendly Choice
It can be hard to make the switch from “normal” paper labels and glue to an eco-friendly version as these are often cheaper to buy in bulk and have a much simpler supply chain; most shops and Post Offices will sell paper to make a label with and PVA glue or Sellotape to stick it on at a pinch.
Finding an eco-version is not as easy. Quite often they are more expensive (in varying degrees) and only available from certain manufacturers, which means you have to be more organised and ensure you don’t run out.
Switching to an eco-friendly solution will not only benefit the environment but also help your reputation across the board with partners and customers. It’s well known that materials such as PTFE and petrochemicals are harmful to air quality, wildlife and plants and awareness is only increasing as time goes on, so highlighting a switch to an eco-friendly alternative is both great for the environment and a great PR move too.
If you are an end user with packaging that can be recycled but labels that can’t, the best way to handle this is to separate the label from the packaging as much as you can before putting them into their separate bins. Hoping that someone at the recycling plant will remove the label is a bit like a prayer on the wind – you never know if it will work or not – so by doing it yourself you know you’re giving that packaging as much chance of being recycled properly as you can!