What Are Sustainable Labels (and Why Are They Important)?
Posted by : Mercury Labels Ltd on Thursday, June 9, 2022 in Choosing Your Labels.
Sustainability is far from just a buzzword. Research suggests that at least one in three consumers worldwide have already shifted their purchase habits in favour of brands that prioritise sustainability.
In short, no longer can companies looking to remain relevant long-term ignore (or undervalue) important environmental issues.
Increasingly, shoppers are exhibiting a growing distaste for brands with questionable product packaging practices. From the needless overuse of materials to the use of non-recyclable materials, what’s inside the package is becoming less important than the packaging it ships in. This is also becoming true with product labels, which continue to play an important role in eco-friendly product packaging. Where labels are used instead of an abundance of traditional packaging materials, waste can be cut down considerably. If it is possible to simply attach a label directly to a product, the conventional approach to packaging may be entirely unnecessary.
Even so, not all product labels are as sustainable as they could be.
Brands and businesses worldwide continue to overlook sustainability when selecting labels for their products. Many of the substrates or materials product labels are made of comprise a range of non-environmentally-friendly materials. Examples of which include polypropylene and polyester – both of which are non-biodegradable plastics.
Choosing the wrong materials for product labels can harm a brand’s reputation in the same way as failing to adopt sustainable packaging practices. Progress is being made, but evidence suggests that many (if not most) companies still have some way to go to meet the shifting priorities of today’s eco-conscious consumer.
Meeting Customers’ Four Main Priorities
For brands and businesses intent on appealing to customers who prioritise sustainability, four important keywords come into play – recycled, recyclable, biodegradable and compostable:
- Recycled – A recycled product label is a label that has been manufactured wholly or in part from materials that have already been used. Recycling existing materials utilises less energy and water, while producing exponentially less CO2 than manufacturing new materials.
- Recyclable – Just as important is the capacity for the label to be recycled after use, as opposed to being confined to a landfill for all eternity. Most types of paper labels can be recycled, but some of the plastics used to manufacture labels are single-use.
- Biodegradable – By definition, a material is considered biodegradable when it will naturally break down into microscopic pieces and decompose within a fairly short space of time.
- Compostable – Compostable materials are different to biodegradable materials, in that they will eventually break down entirely and release their primary nutrients back into the earth itself.
Of course, complications arise when product labels and packaging comprise multiple materials. Whether or not it is possible to separate these materials will determine if and to what extent the label/packaging is recyclable, biodegradable and compostable.
Either way, it is the responsibility of all product manufacturers to include a clear disclosure of all such information on their product labels. Whether your labels are 100% recyclable, biodegradable or far from sustainable, the customer has the right to be informed.