Striving for the best: Recycling at Schmincke with AD Circular


Just 20 percent of the world’s used label liners are currently recycled, meaning that massive amounts of high-quality materials left over from the production of pressure-sensitive labels end up being wasted. Though complex to tackle, the problem represents a clear opportunity for the label industry to become more sustainable.

Through our AD Circular program, we are making that process easier. We collect used label liners from member companies across Europe and work with trusted recycling partners to handle the rest. By enabling the recycling of these valuable materials, we are contributing to creating a circular economy where nothing goes to waste. 

We recently spoke with program member Schmincke about why they joined AD Circular and how the program helps them achieve their sustainability goals.

Founded in 1881 and based in Erkrath, Germany, Schmincke is one of the leading companies in the market for artists' colors. They produce oil, acrylic, watercolors, pastels, gouache, pigments, and colors for linoleum printing. In 2022 they were named one of the strongest brands in Germany at the German Standards Brand Awards. 

Around 80% of Schmincke’s tubes, dispensers, jars, plastic bottles, buckets, and spray cans, as well as commercial packaging and some exclusive promotion sets, are labeled with self-adhesive materials. Unique to Schmincke is that they print their labels on demand in-house. This process allows them to ensure their labels are always up to date. It also alleviates supply chain complications, saves time and costs, and results in a lower CO2 footprint due to less waste and transport. Finally, it also enables them to uphold their quality standards; producing fine artist colors is a sensitive process that sometimes requires ingredient updates or adaptations to how labels are printed and applied.


Can you describe your sustainability goals and the ways in which you are reaching them? 

Schminckes' focus has always been set on longevity and sustainability - not only on economic success, but also on environmental and social aspects. Based on our philosophy, “Meliora Cogito – I strive for the best”, we are constantly optimizing the quality of our products, packaging, and production processes. Our focus is above all on:

  • Excellent product performance

  • Long product life of our artists’ colors to enable long-lasting works of art

  • Safe use of the materials

  • Minimal environmental impact from their manufacture and use

A few examples of steps we have taken:

  • We purchase our raw materials, such as pigments and binders, exclusively from carefully selected and reliable producers and suppliers who share our philosophy of sustainability. We prefer renewable raw materials such as linseed oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil.

  • Our laboratory makes every effort to develop formulas without using hazardous materials. If this is not possible for technical reasons, we of course ensure that the products in question are labeled in accordance with current legislation on chemicals to guarantee that they are safe for consumers to use.

  • Since 2010 we have invested in a high-performance photovoltaic system, which produces approximately 70% of our total energy, reducing CO2 emissions by about 147 tonnes per year. Furthermore, we are constantly working to improve our energy efficiency.

  • We also made a contribution to the responsible use of water by installing sewage pretreatment equipment back in the 1980s, long before lawmakers made this a legal requirement.

What led you to join the AD Circular program and what results have you achieved? 

AD Circular fits perfectly in our sustainability goals and the sustainability argument for implementing it was absolutely convincing. By participating in AD Circular, in 2022 we have enabled the collection of 2.7 tons of used glassine lines for recycling, representing a reduction in CO2 emission of approximately 5 tons. In the future we expect it to be even more.


Employees filling a supplied box with used liners

Has your business experienced any additional benefits from AD Circular?

The introduction of AD Circular brought the recycling of liner materials to our attention and we didn’t face any problems while implementing it. At a time when sustainability is a focus at work and at home, we are happy to contribute to it in as many ways as possible. The collection of the liner for AD Circular is not only beneficial for the environment, it also means that we save space in our regular waste containers.


A box filled with used liners for collection 

What is your next step in terms of sustainability?

To help save energy this winter, we recently changed our production operation to a 4-day week for the period between November 2022 and March 2023; Friday working hours will become additional working hours on Monday to Thursday and colleagues in administration will work from home on Fridays. With this we expect energy savings of about 15%.

In partnership with Avery Dennison, we will also be participating in the Tosca pallet pooling program, which suits our sustainability goals perfectly. Using reusable pallets is a fabulous way of reducing waste, without any additional costs or efforts from our side.

We are also continuously looking for possibilities to avoid or to reduce sealing of our products without having to risk soiling during storage or transport. And we would like to change all our labels to recycled materials, but currently there are often supply difficulties in this regard.


Learn more

If you wish to learn more about the AD Circular program and how it could potentially help you recycle used paper and filmic label liners, click here. If you wish to learn more about our Tosca pallet pooling program, click here