The growing demand for greater sustainability in the wine world is inspiring the development of labelling solutions that embrace an environmentally responsible design.
There is one key aspect of labelling that is often disregarded: the label release liners, that is to say the backing on which the labels arrive at the bottling line. The choice of the liner is important to ensure that labels are applied evenly and precisely.
Given the high speeds of bottling lines, most labels come on PET or PP backing, because these materials provide greater release tension, which results in smoother label applications.
Label release liners represent 35% of the waste generated during the labelling process. At this time, options for recycling PET and PP liners do exist, but they require a proper collection system and a process to eliminate the silicone that is a structural component of these liners.
Generally, recycling companies prefer higher-quality plastic waste that provides them with a higher margin, which is why plastic label liners often end up in landfills or incinerators.
With this in mind, several companies are promoting a circular economy approach and implementing liner collection and recycling programmes specifically designed for wineries.
Avery Dennison is currently developing a PET liner collection system in several European countries and the US. The liners are crushed to produce rPET, a medium comprised of 15% recycled content, which the company hopes to increase over time, with the same characteristics as a PET liner made from virgin resin.
RafCycle® is an open programme by UPM Raflatac that provides collection and recycling solutions for PET and PP label release liners, thus giving a new life to label waste. How such a service can work within the wine world is exemplified by El Coto wineries in La Rioja, Spain, which have already partnered with this recycling programme.
Other companies like Cycle4green Ltd. and Channeled Resources Group provide similar recycling solutions for label liner waste in Europe.
The list of accessible and economically viable services for wineries who wish to participate in these kinds of programmes is growing due to the increase in logistical operations focused on this type of waste collection and the rapid development of recycling solutions.
Do these kinds of solutions also exist for label substrates?
In keeping with its sustainable, science-based design approach, Avery Dennison also offers a range of materials that make it possible to create labels with a positive social, environmental, and financial impact.
Their portfolio is packed with solutions, including substrates made from 15% grape waste or 100% recycled paper with natural pigments, as well as materials of responsible or natural origin such as 90% bagasse fibre sourced from sugar cane waste, and 100% cotton.
When it comes to labelling our wine bottles, an awareness of these kinds of alternatives will not only help us with our own in-house waste management, but contribute to a waste treatment approach that focuses on giving discarded materials a second useful life. Wine bottle labels matter – and not only in terms of image and branding.
Marta Juega, PhD