A Sticky Situation

Labels Impede Paper Recycling

In an attempt to keep more paper in the recycling process, Adhesives Research Co., of Glenrock, Penn., has developed a new recyclable label.

“A lot of paper products are labeled — envelopes, newspapers, reports, you name it,” said Rick Alexander, market manager for Adhesives Research. “That material can’t be recycled into more paper without removing the label, so it often ends up in a landfill.To solve this problem, we’ve developed a label that’s recyclable.”

forest conservation and climate change mitigation

This new type of label eliminates a costly problem from the paper-making process — a problem paper mills call “stickies.” These are pieces of conventional labels, coated with rubber-based or acrylic adhesives, that make their way into the paper-pulp process.

These “stickies” cause shutdowns at paper mills which cost thousands of dollars in lost time and material each year, Alexander said.

“Paper mills understandably get very upset when this happens,” he said. “As a result, paper containing conventional labels is downgraded to a mixed-paper category and is usually hauled to a landfill.”

Paper mills are presently the largest users of Adhesive Research’s new label stock. But the company is starting to find acceptance from other industries, like direct-mail marketers and newspaper publishers, Alexander said.

“At the National Recycling Congress in Milwaukee, we were extremely pleased with the response we got,” he said. “The repulpable labels account for about 20 percent of our current label sales, but the growth prospects for them look very good.”

Large-volume users of labels like industrial corporations, banks, insurance companies and government agencies can benefit economically from switching to these repulpable labels, Alexander explained.

These organizations might pay as much as $20 per ton to dispose of waste paper with conventional labels. But if the same waste paper carried recyclable labels, it could be sold to a waste broker for about $50 per ton — a net difference of $70 per ton of paper.

After adding up the environmental and economic benefits of these new labels, why would anyone get stuck with anything else?

Earth Tip: An average office worker disposes of 180 pounds of high-grade paper per year.

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