Most Sustainable Labeling Technology For Reusable Packaging

Noelle Daigle

Oct, 19 October, 2021

Before modern times, reusable packaging was made from a variety of materials found in the natural world. Egyptians made handmade, colored glass water pots. In other cultures, perishable food was originally stored in gourds, leaves, and hollowed-out logs.

At one point in time, the people of China developed flexible packaging using sheets of treated mulberry. In yet another point of history, Napoleon advocated for canned food to feed his vast armies that marched across Europe on conquest. In 1817, the Victorians produced the first cardboard box, which paved the way for future innovations such as paper bags and glued paper sacks. 

Every human culture has developed proficient means to store, protect, and transport essential goods, each new advancement revolutionizing the way countries and cultures interact with one another, and helping nurture trade relationships and increase wealth. 

Although the story of food storage and packaging began with natural materials found and transported in one’s region, we are witnessing another revolutionary shift, as we see the rise of reusable and durable plastic packaging taking the place of cardboard material and wood.

With the global economy and supply chain more inextricably linked than ever before, it’s important to understand where reusable packaging has come from and where it’s heading. The future of packaging and its labeling is sustainable, vividly branded, and traceable.

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From Cardboard to Plastic

In the modern world, recycling and sustainability are becoming increasingly more important.

Particularly when it comes to manufacturing, more and more companies are adopting programs and processes such as LEAN Six Sigma to improve companywide efficiency, eliminate waste, and increase product or service quality. 

One of the methods companies are adopting is to utilize returnable or reusable plastic packaging and shipping containers. 

This shift is driving companies into a more efficient and cost-effective future that also happens to promote sustainability initiatives that benefit the environment. 

Returnable plastic packaging is often made from polyethylene or polypropylene (which are derivatives of the polyolefin family of plastics) and is extremely durable, cost-effective, and sustainable.

Shipping containers such as these have a wide variety of uses in global industries.

The Most Sustainable Labeling Technology for Reusable Packaging​Sometimes, they can also be used for sequencing racks. Using the same container for a sequencing rack and shipping container can be very cost-efficient. In the automotive industry, for example, these containers can be used for shipping products such as engines or car doors from the supplier to assembly plants. Once the parts that are shipped in a container are taken out and used then the container can be sent back to the supplier to be re-used for the next shipment.

Some of the industries that reusable packaging is used in are industrial, farming, manufacturing, distributing, warehousing, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, and logistics organizations.

An Obstacle for Returnable Plastic Packaging: Labels

The Most Sustainable Labeling Technology for Reusable Packaging​Reusable plastic packaging containers are primarily comprised of a type of plastic called olefin. In this family of plastics, we have materials such as polyethylene, polypropylene, TPO, and TPV. Olefin plastic is used in everything from automotive car parts, to waste containers, to medical sharps bins, to components that are found on ATVs, power tools, and agricultural equipment. 

It’s everywhere! It quite literally replaced what was predominantly used before its discovery: steel. 

There are many benefits to using olefin-based plastic, but one of the biggest obstacles they present is that their low surface energy (which helps them maintain their durability and resistance to UV Exposure or harsh chemicals and abrasion, etc.) also happens to be the exact thing that causes them to be impossible to label.

Olefin plastic has a surface energy level similar to Teflon, which is designed specifically so nothing sticks to it. Olefin plastic operates in this same way. 

This presents a rather big problem for reusable packaging that needs to be labeled for life. 

What types of labels need to be present? Let’s find out.  

All About Labels 

The Reusable Packaging Industry utilizes a wide variety of labels for branding and barcoding. 

While there are several traditional methods for labeling on the market, the truth is that they are not designed for the special properties that olefin plastic possesses and are thus not compatible with the part for its lifespan. Typical labeling methods utilize a multi-layer construction that consists of a combination of inks, adhesives, or bonding layers to attempt to bite into the plastic. In many instances, the plastic surfaces also have to be pre-treated or allowed to out-gas for up to 48 hours before labeling can be applied. 

Monoflo Packaging Made For Efficient Transport Of GoodsThe other aspect about labeling reusable packages is that oftentimes, the barcode label is a different method from the branding label. 

The result is a system for labeling that is more costly and time-consuming than it needs to be, and all with labels that are not designed for olefin plastics that are destined to fail.  

For an example of how frequent failure occurs, let’s say a company is shipping soda to a customer. During transit, some of the soda explodes and gets syrup all over the pallets. Once the pallets are unloaded, they will be pressure washed to clean them. Under such conditions, traditional labels applied to the surface of polyolefin pallets will be blasted off under the intensity of pressure washing, which then makes them difficult to return to the supplier. 

This essentially renders them useless as reusable packaging needs to be returnable.

Furthermore, typical labels are not recyclable and must be removed before recycling processes, while the container itself can be completely recycled. 

Fusion labels redefine this standard, as they are engineered specifically for olefin-based plastics, and are just as strong, non-toxic, durable, and recyclable as the plastic container itself is. 

This is because Polymer Fusion Labels are made only with 100% compatible plastic material, making them a permanent part of the container that will not degrade with time or peel off. They do not need to be removed in any secondary processes to be recycled. Using Polymer Fusion Labeling Technology, barcode and brand can be printed together in one single process and there is no need to allow for outgassing to occur or to pre-treat the surface. 

Polymer Fusion Labels have provided a proven lifetime warrantied solution for many global industries, including reusable packaging. (Guaranteed for the life of the product). 

To find out more about barcode and branding Polymer Fusion Labels, please call us at 928-634-8888 to find the solution that will fit your custom needs. 

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