Some brands are also moving away from hard plastic lids on flexible packaging and are instead employing rigid labels or resealable enclosures. Some makers of wet wipes, for example, have recently committed to this change. These enclosures, too, can be made of the same polymer as the package itself, enabling recycling. (At Avery Dennison, we’ve worked with wet wipes manufacturers to develop thicker polypropylene and polyethylene labels that are up to the job of repeated reclosure.) Pairing the labels with the right adhesive ensures dependable functionality of the enclosure time after time.
Of course, choosing label material demands more than simply picking a facestock of like material and a suitable removable adhesive. All materials should be thoroughly tested against criteria such as barrier properties, repeated open-and-close functionality, chemical and moisture resistance, visual appearance, conversion characteristics, and more.
An important first step
Moving to monomaterials alone won’t be enough to improve the recycling rates for flexible packages. Collection, sorting, and a varying patchwork of recycling systems across Europe are all challenges yet to be worked out. It’s encouraging that organizations associated with flexible packaging in Europe, including we at Avery Dennison, have launched CEFLEX, an initiative to create a circular economy for flexible packaging. CEFLEX aims to lead in redesigning flexible packaging to make it more recyclable, and to establish a collection and recycling infrastructure across Europe by 2025. The organization’s goal is to collect 100 percent of flexible packaging and recycle at least 80 percent of it.
These are ambitious, admirable, and necessary goals. In the meantime, brands and packaging designers can move the circular economy forward by creating their flexible packaging from monomaterials, including the labels. It’s one strong step they can take until we get the rest of flexible packaging’s recycling challenges, well, all sorted out.
Jan ‘t Hart oversees marketing of label materials that enable sustainability, innovation, and compliance for Avery Dennison customers in Europe. See our solutions for flexible packaging here.