Work Still To Be Done On Recycling Of Self-Adhesive Label Liners

The self-adhesive label is proving to be quite successful, despite market complexity and increased competition. This kind of label is proving to have many benefits for label converters who have added a higher variety of self-adhesive labels to their ranges, including the generation of new business and the garnering of attention from end users.

Interestingly, despite the fact that other label technologies are soon to come, a large portion of brand owners were not ready to leave their self-adhesive products behind, according to a recent Radar survey conducted by Finat. The survey was just part of the in-depth report which profiles Europe’s diversified label industry using focused research and analysis conducted by market research company LPC.

Included in LPC’s research are those factors in current marketing which are having the most impact on label supply chains, including suppliers of raw material, label converters and customers. The most recent and sixth edition of the Finat Radar report focused on the view of label end users, which is both crucial and fast-changing. This viewpoint revealed the work to be done with raising awareness about sustainability and ensuring the environmental friendliness of self-adhesive inkjet labels in terms of efficient waste recycling.

Separation of Label Converters from Label Application

One aspect of the environmental friendliness of self-adhesive labels that appears to have gone unaddressed is the continued distance of label converters from the point where their labels are actually applied. It’s at this point that label release liner enters the waste stream, and precisely the point which requires more thought as to the development of regular and practical collection systems for used liner and the general waste from label production.

Interestingly, over half of end-users surveyed for the Finat Radar report stated that they were not aware of currently-available options for the recycling of release liner from labels. An even larger percentage of end users were not engaged in the recycling of liner waste. Their primary reason for not doing so was the fact that the logistics involved with the collection and transport of waste to a recycling facility were too complex.

Education Needed

Finat also recently released a study focused on the recycling of used label release liner. The study recorded the current practices in the EU’s ten largest member states surrounding waste management and recycling legislation, as well as the level of understanding of the differences between incineration, landfill and recycling. The study also included EU practices for end-of-life options.

The results revealed that more education was needed about not only the importance of recycling used label liner, but also the economic benefits of doing so, across the entire value chain.

If the expectation of brand owners in the survey is correct, label demand in 2017 will increase by a whopping three percent or more. Although this comes in below their expectation for last year, it still indicates the strength of this business sector. Regarding digital print solutions, brand owner expectations were to offer five percent more of these solutions in 2018 than they do this year.

Brand owners not only plan to produce increasing volumes of products, but the trend is toward reduced label print runs and just-in-time delivery and personalisation. All of these only speak louder to the importance of better label waste recycling and increase the urgency for education on the proper recycling procedure for used label liner and other label waste. In countries like the UK where specific directives and goals are in place to achieve zero waste to landfill by 2020, it will be especially important to educate the end user about their recycling options, as well as have procedures in place for the efficient collection of used label liners.

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Understanding The Construction Of Self-Adhesive Labels

Self-adhesive labels are already incredibly versatile. However, with advances in technology, more can be done with the self-adhesive label than ever before. Today’s labels are available in a wide variety of formats, each with their own set of advantages. However, all self-adhesive labels still contain the same components: a facestock, a film and a liner.

The Right Facestock is Crucial

The facestock is the material which is bonded to the adhesive layer of inkjet labels, and is the functional portion of the label. Without the right facestock and adhesive, a label will not be suited to its application. A wide range of facestocks is available.

Uncoated Facestock

Vellum, or uncoated paper, is the simplest facestock available. It is also the most cost-effective. Ideal for most general purpose applications, vellum has a non-gloss finish and is porous, making it suitable for water-based adhesives.

Coated Facestock

Coated paper contains a layer of specialised coating for the purpose of improving a label’s appearance and performance properties. The heavier the layer of coating, the smoother the label’s finish and the higher its rigidity. Coated papers are ideal for multi-coloured labels as well as those labels which will be used in dry environments.

Coated facestocks are available in three varieties; which are – light weight, high gloss and primecoat. The lightweight variety has a semi-gloss appearance and increased flexibility. The high gloss variety features a thicker and shinier coating and is both rigid and water resistant. The primecoat variety has a thin coating and smooth, semi-gloss feel and appearance.

Thermal Facestock

Thermal facestock is coated with heat-sensitive chemicals which require the application of heat-activated ink from the ribbon of a thermal transfer printer to be transferred to the substrate. Examples where thermal facestock is used include sales receipts, food labels and industrial bar codes. This facestock allows quality barcodes to be produced for a low cost whilst being able to be printed relatively quickly.

Thermal facestock is available in two qualities; coated and uncoated. The coated variety, designed to protect the label from solvents, grease, fats and condensation, may have coating on both sides and is used primarily on frozen products, as well as on pre-packed meats and cheese. The uncoated variety is used for situations where short-term and well-controlled labelling is required, and is usually seen on fresh produce.

Label Films

The film on a label is that opaque or transparent material made from a wide variety of plastics that can appear on a range of commercially-available products including shampoo bottles and plastic food containers. Three kinds of label film exist: polyester film (PET), polypropylene film (PP) and polyethylene film (PE).

Polyester film is used on labels for the automotive, security and medical industry, to name but a few. It can resist heat up to 150°C, as well as resist moisture and chemicals. PP film, derived from petroleum is seen on rigid bottles and packaging like beverages and spirits. It offers high clarity and higher strength than its PE counterpart. PE film is the most environmentally-friendly of the three. It has very low stiffness, and can resist both moisture and UV light making it ideal for personal care products as well as industrial labelling.

Release Liners

The release liners on labels are largely paper-based, and must be smooth and dense in order to provide a uniform surface. Glassine liners are translucent and very strong. Resistant to air and water, glassine liners can be found on virtually all roll labels, and are used in special applications as well as photocell and automatic dispensing systems. Kraft liners are coated with clay on one side for added rigidity. This paper is made from unbleached wood pulp, and typically used for manual dispensing of labels. It is also used with heavy facestocks and on sticker sheets.

In understanding the differences between facestocks, films and liners, a more informed choice about labels products for your particular application can be made.

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This Year Will See Many Changes For Labels And Package Printing

If another successful DRUPA and Label Expo are any indication, 2017 will be a banner year for the label and package printing industry. The one word which sums it up best is change.

Developments in Production and Innovation will Continue

Today, print runs are decreasing in length, and customers are demanding more variations and versions of products. As well, the number of available label solutions has increased as the time to market has decreased. This is all thanks to advances in printing press types, digital printing technology, colour management and digitised pre-press, as well as an increase in the availability of finishing line solutions.

Of course, all of this innovation will mean added pressure to keep costs down and profitability up, not only with product production, but also with the demands of supply chain traceability, environmental friendliness and stricter food labelling requirements. This increased pressure may well cause printers to increase the amount of automation of their production and administration, as well as increased use of management information systems which integrate printing technology with specialised inspection for the least amount of errors as possible.

Continued Evolution in the Face of Increased Consumer Demand

Technology continues to change the shopping process of consumers, allowing them to conduct research over the internet on products before they buy. This has only served to make competition for the consumer dollar more intense. As well, convenience is king, with consumers choosing multi-trip shopping over single trips to big box stores. This is placing pressure on label and packaging to stand out even further.

One way companies are accomplishing this to offer value-added products, such as personalisation and the ability to customise. Another way is to offer customers products in a range of graduated levels, which promotes exclusivity as well as inspires customer loyalty.

Labels Doing More Than Ever

Today’s labels not only help consumers identify the products they buy. Digital trends have also expanded a label’s ability to hold regulatory information, brand identity and special coding, which provides consumers with more product information. This is currently being done via the use of colour-changing and tactile label features, as well as QR codes and label personalisation.

These innovations have also extended to security labels, increasing the sophistication of product identification features with the use of various in-label security measures, including holograms and computer chips.

Of course, along with these increased features are refinements in the digital technology used to create them. Some of the refinements expected in the near future include those made to hybrid digital/analogue presses, advanced inks with special features and new substrates to carry them.

More Centralised Packaging Procurement

As competition increases, so too does the challenge continue for label converters to find new ways to add value to their products. One way that many label converters are doing this is to make their procurement of printed packaging more centralised. In the past, new vendors might have had to deal with the research and development, marketing and package engineering themselves. Today, these channels are closing, and vendors are now being directed to deal with only the sourcing and procurement departments. This has led to label converters developing new strategies for business development and marketing to woo new customers, as they ensure their production meets existing customer needs.

The bottom line for 2017 is that the industry continues to march quickly and confidently into the future. However, the pace at which it is doing so is accelerating, revealing many opportunities for growth. Label converters and packaging companies who ensure they’re up to speed on current technologies and processes will be the ones who stand out from the crowd.

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Be Aware Of Your Label Adhesive Options

Choosing your labels will inevitably involve choosing the right adhesive, which can be difficult if you aren’t aware of your options. This article will serve to inform you about the most common adhesives used on self-adhesive labels, most of which are based on rubber or synthetic resins.

Rubber Means Synthetic

Although it’s true that pure rubber was traditionally used to make rubber adhesives, almost all adhesives referred to as rubber-based are now made of synthetic materials. Regardless, rubber adhesives offer a higher degree of adhesion than do their acrylic counterparts. They also adhere to surfaces more quickly. Rubber adhesives bond particularly well to plastics, but are not as resistant to UV rays and ageing as acrylic-based adhesives.

Acrylic Adhesives

Acrylic adhesives are actually constructed of synthetic polymer. Although they don’t attach as quickly to surfaces as rubber adhesives do, a label with an acrylic adhesive will be stronger and more durable. As well, acrylic adhesives become longer-lasting over time. They can endure temperature extremes and when exposed to chemicals can outperform rubber adhesives. Acrylics age well and offer high UV resistance. They can also be easily modified for any application.

Adhesive Formulation: Carriers

Several types of adhesives include something called a carrier in their formulation, which is what the adhesives active components are dispersed or dissolved in. Without a carrier, an adhesive would be completely solid.

Application-Specific Label Adhesives

Demanding applications will usually warrant the use of labels with solvent-based adhesives. This kind of system contains a solvent that evaporates during drying. The solvent is then able to be reused, which is feasible considering that these adhesives are higher in cost. Solvent-based adhesives can be used on a wide variety of substrates and offer some tolerance for humidity and low temperatures.

Water-based adhesives are enjoying increased popularity due to their environmentally-friendly and non-chemical base. These adhesives are not flammable and can resist high temperatures very well. They are also ideal for a wide range of applications because they offer strong adhesion.

Curable adhesives are relatively new, being composed of UV cross-linkable acrylics. This completely solid adhesive is melted before being pumped to the coating station. There, the adhesive is cross-linked with UV radiation, which gives it light and water resistance, as well as increased resistance to heat and chemicals.

Similarly, hot-melt adhesives are also completely solid. This type of adhesive is heated to above-melting point and then applied to the substrate. Hot-melt adhesives are ideal where labels must be adhered to moist substrates. They offer an incredibly strong and fast adhesion to difficult surfaces, and are often used in low-temperature applications.

Factors Relating to Suitable Adhesives

When trying to choose the right adhesive, several factors should be considered. For example, all adhesives will age over time, as well as be affected by temperature and conditions on the substrate or around the site of adhesion.

Yellowing, loosening and hardening are all possibilities with any adhesive over time, making it important to consider the shelf-life of each. Age resistance is a feature of acrylic adhesives, as is resistance to UV light.

An adhesive’s properties will be affected by temperature, increasing in hardness and decreasing in stickiness as temperatures drop. High temperatures can cause adhesives to soften and possibly weaken at label edges. The temperature when labelling takes place, as well as the temperature of the environment when the label is in service are both critical to its level of effectiveness.

The substrate also affects label properties. Rough surfaces may not allow for complete adhesion. Water-based adhesives will be more tolerant of water, but in cases where moisture and humidity will be extreme, solvent-based and hot-melt adhesives will offer better performance.

Whether you require your labels to have a temporary bond, last for years or need them to be able to be frequently repositioned, knowing the properties of commercially-available labels and their adhesives will help you to make the best choice for your application.