Recycling issues continue to plague shrink sleeve labels

By Robert Rath

Recycling issues continue to plague shrink sleeve labels

Bottle-hugging PET shrink sleeve labels have continued to gain popularity due to their attractive design and large amount of label landscape – but recycling remains a challenge. Thankfully, industry leaders are discussing options.

In fact, the recycling issue has gained such currency that a panel on the subject occupied an entire afternoon at the two-day Sleeve Label Conference & Expo in Cincinnati on April 29-30. Recycling PET labels is especially critical in the industry as demand for recycled PET outweighs supply. PepsiCo, for instance, uses anywhere from 10% to 100% recycled PET in its bottles.

“There are three eras of sustainability,” said panelist Rosalyn Bandy, senior sustainability manager for Avery Dennison. “First there was ‘Do No Harm.’ Next came ‘Do Well by Doing Good’ and finally the era we’re in now – ‘Create Value.’ Today, we need a more comprehensive approach to sustainability.”

The issue with shrink sleeve labels is that they’re difficult to remove, requiring special machines to strip them. PET labels are also heavier than most labels, and tend to sink during the sorting process. Some bottles come with a zip-off sleeve, but there’s no guarantee customers will remove them before recycling. However, panelists noted that consumer demand and the high value of reused material is driving the search for a solution.

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