Labels: A small part of packaging, a critical contributor to PET recycling

Labels make up a small percentage of packaging material but they have a big impact on its overall recyclability. By choosing labels that are easily and cleanly removed in the PET recycling process, brands can ensure their packaging design improves the yield of uncontaminated plastic and increases sorely needed availability of recycled PET necessary for food-grade packages.

Brands Seek Green Solutions 

Increasingly eco-conscious consumers want to back sustainable brands, and companies are making public pledges to reduce their carbon footprint. Recyclable packaging is a major part of these sustainability targets and many large beverage, food, and home and personal care brands have committed to having 100% of packaging be recyclable, reusable, or compostable within the next few years. 

Customer demand is widening the market for sustainable solutions and legislation is gradually making such solutions the norm. Especially in Europe, regulation around packaging material is increasing. Companies that delay their move to a more circular economy risk missing out on early incentives and may face EPR* fees related to sustainability requirements down the line.

Simplifying the Switch 

To shift towards sustainability without starting from scratch, brands are looking for green alternatives in all areas of packaging that enable recycling, meet regulations, and retain the performance of traditional materials. 

Avery Dennison, the self-adhesive materials company, developed their CleanFlake™ adhesive to offer this type of solution for PET recycling. “To enable more recyclability in packaging, we need to offer solutions that preserve the brand look and make it an easy choice to switch to sustainable practices.” says Mariya Nedelcheva, Product Manager Film Labels at Avery Dennison, “CleanFlake™ technology has been designed to easily wash off in the recycling process while also retaining all the appeal of traditional pressure sensitive labels. When there is no compromise on shelf appeal, printing, or performance, it is a lot easier for brands to go green.” 

Beyond Bottles

The first generation of CleanFlake™ labels has been enabling food-grade recycling of PET bottles since 2014. The switchable adhesive sticks firmly during the package’s use but “turns off” in the sink/float recycling process, allowing the label materials to cleanly separate from the PET flakes and float to the surface. 

As the recycling environment and needs are evolving, so should the technology. Avery Dennison sees the next step in PET labelling as a CleanFlake™ evolution into a wider range of PET packaging. Along with bottles, CleanFlake™ can now be used with clamshells, trays, and jars for products across the food, beverage, and home and personal care industries. The next generation of CleanFlake™ adhesive coming in 2021 will deliver improved performance, the ability to wash off at 65°C, and a design that meets EU guidelines on PET recycling. CleanFlake™ technology aims to increase the percentage of packaging that can be successfully recycled and to bring more recycled PET back into the supply chain. 

A Sustainable Ecosystem 

“Our goal is to offer a portfolio that fully enables recycling.” says Nedelcheva, “Not just in filmic labels but across Avery Dennison. This means being very engaged with the wider ecosystem. We continuously talk to brand owners, converters, and have close relationships with packaging manufacturers and recyclers to ensure our solutions not only meet today’s requirements but those expected to arrive in the next few years. Avery Dennison is committed to pushing towards a circular economy and we design products that help customers quickly reach, and surpass, their sustainability goals.” 

*Extended Producer Responsibility


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To learn more about the CleanFlake portfolio from Avery Dennison, contact a sustainable labelling specialist and let us help you find a sustainable solution for your labels and packaging.