Label suppliers working to support sustainability initiatives

By Rosalyn Bandy in Sustainable Packaging on December 11, 2017

Brand owners and retailers--the end users of tags and labels--are increasingly holding companies in their supply chain accountable in the brand owners’ and retailers’ efforts to meet sustainability goals. As a result, label suppliers and converters are continuing to ramp up efforts to support their customers by identifying sustainability “hot spots” and develop strategies to address them. 

To help members identify these hot spots, TLMI created “Label Initiative for the Environment (L.I.F.E.),” a third-party audited environmental management system that members use to track and improve environmental “hot spots” such as waste, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and volatile organic compounds.

Meeting the certification parameters provides marketing and continuous improvement value. The L.I.F.E. logo (see above image) can be used on marketing materials, packaging labels, and invoices; the data can be used for benchmarking, production bids, and sustainability reports. There is also special recognition for certified companies at TLMI and industry events, such as at Label Expo, where the L.I.F.E. logo is displayed on TLMI member booths.

It’s a big deal to be L.I.F.E.-certified, because there is no other recognition that specifically addresses the environmental impacts of the industry. Also as measurement and disclosure have become the norm for doing business, TLMI L.I.F.E.-certified members believe it’s more relevant now than ever.

In addition to L.I.F.E., in 2016 TLMI’s Board of Directors determined that sustainability should be one of the five pillars of the association’s strategic plan, with the primary objective being to reduce the volume of matrix waste and release liner that is sent to landfills. Matrix and liner waste have always been a by-product of pressure-sensitive labels, and waste generation is a key hot spot for all label manufacturers. Non-landfill solutions have been hit or miss, due in part to regional variations in cost and transport fees. Because of these regional variations, TLMI catalogues multiple diversion resources around the country that provide non-landfill solutions. The association keeps a searchable database on its Website for members, and, as new solutions are vetted, the list grows.   

To scale solutions across the country, we are working on quantifying matrix waste and identifying where it’s located–key data points in reducing waste to landfill. These are the first questions that non-landfill companies ask, and the answer has been difficult to pinpoint. The first questions non-landfill companies ask are: how much matrix is there and where is it located? This has never been officially quantified, and we are working on answering those questions now so that these solutions will be easier to scale across the industry.

TLMI also knows that collaborating with other organizations creates synergistic effects. That’s why we work closely with organizations like The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) to support their efforts around design for recyclability and the How2Recycle label (see below image). Brands and retailers are increasingly adopting the SPC’s How2Recycle label to give consumers guidance on recycling containers. In keeping with this goal, and because some label substrates and adhesives can have a detrimental effect on the recyclability of containers, APR has developed The APR Design Guide for Recyclability. The guide gives label suppliers and converters information needed to test substrates, adhesives, and inks for compatibility with the recycling process. 

Above image courtesy of SPC

 

TLMI’s partnership with these, and other, organizations gives the association a seat at the table, a voice to help guide decision making, and fast access to updates that keep our members informed and prepared to meet the expectations of their end-use customers. 

Reducing the impacts of the label industry on the environment is a work in progress for TLMI and its members. Ultimately, TLMI’s goal is to be a bridge between the issues and our members so that we are all part of the solution–and so that we provide meaningful and tangible benefits. 

Rosalyn Bandy serves as TLMI Director of Environmental Strategies and Outreach.

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