What to do with pressure sensitive label printing waste?

Here at Mercian Labels we are always trying to improve our performance in every way possible, and with my academic background in environmental engineering, I’m particularly conscious of our environmental performance.

However, there is a tough issue to deal with in our industry, which is how to dispose of our 2 main waste streams (by weight and volume), these being siliconised paper liner and waste labels/setup/matrix stripping waste.

We never get involved in the recycling of siliconised paper liner as this is always the responsibility of the end user of our labels.  In fact, I expect that this all goes into landfill, as its a difficult waste stream to deal with as you cannt reuse it, or recycle it easily as paper.  In fact, the only successful reuse scheme for siliconised liner is to ship it in bulk to India and shred it to be used in making nappies and paper towels.  The “big player” who advocates and organises this system is Calvin Frost of Channelled Resources. I have investigated this avenue for our customers, but the logistics of collecting very small quantities of liner from our small run label users just dosn’t make this viable.

The second waste stream is waste labels/setup/matrix stripping waste like this.

label matrix waste

Its not dense, often covered in ink, and made up of a mix of synthetic or paper and water based acrylic adhesive.  Its a very difficult waste stream to work with, as the adhesive isnt recyclable, even though the paper or (often) PP polypropylene substrate is.  You cant compress it easily to transport it, you cannt shred it easily or use it for packing material.  It fact, its very hard to do much with.

Until recently the only serious option was thermal disposal, which is basically burning it in huge incinerators to generate electricity, fire bricks in kilns, or make cement etc.  This is much better than landfilling it, but its still difficult to dispose of the sort of volume the industry generates like this.  At Mercian Labels, I’ve been working with other BSRLA members to develop viable system to manage this, and we have commissioned a report from a leading European academic to advise us on how to get this system up and running.

However, the leading industry blogger Peter Renton over in the USA from Lightning Labels has recently reported on a project by one of the main industry suppliers to make this material into building! It looks quite an interesting concept.  I hope it turns out to be more a practical solution that a artist’s piece or a stunt.  We will continue to monitor this issue, but I would very much welcome any suggestions on what we coudl do with this waste stream.  Its a big problem in this industry, and one that is going to get worse as landfill costs go up and we strive to further minimise our environmental impact whilst providing good quality goods to our customer.