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Flexo Sustainable : Summer 2012
pliant, particularly in relation to adhesives and coatings; to explore new label and release liner substrates and adhesive technologies; and to use thinner materials all round without compromising performance. GLOBAL PACKAGING PROJECT Unquestionably, the brand owners and retailers have es- tablished an outstanding sustainability platform, in the form of the Consumer Goods Forum's Global Packaging Project (see Fall 2012 edition of Sustainable FLEXO). It is bringing together the world's leading manufacturers and retailers, along with their packaging suppliers at every level and related industry associations, as a single group of people with a single agenda. This group has already defined what is now the accepted framework for informed debate on sus- tainability concerns throughout the supply chain: the Global Protocol on Packaging Sustainability. Through its common professional sustainability language that transcends the boundaries of commercial advantage, the GPPS is facilitat- ing a meaningful dialog between customers and suppliers on appropriate parameters to be used to measure environ- mental progress. FINAT is an active supporter, representing the interests of both the thousands of label converters in Europe, and further afield, who provide finished labels for the end users, as well as its valued supplier company members. I person- ally believe that if any initiative will deliver a real blueprint for the optimal combination of environmental-friendliness and fit-for-purpose packaging, it will be this worldwide forum of suppliers and users. EU PACKAGINE WASTE DIRECTIVE At a regional level, self-adhesive labels must meet the requirements of the EU Packaging Waste Directive, which is driving change in Europe through legislation and punitive levies for non-conformance. Here, in the self-adhesive label industry, waste management, recycling, and recyclability are priority issues in relation to one particular part of the self- adhesive label laminate -- the release liner. Release liner is the 'hero' of the self-adhesive label conversion and automatic application processes, delivering superb handling character- istics on the printing press and in label application. However, it is also a perceived problem for the recycling lobby since, once a self-adhesive label has been automatically applied to the product, the release liner that delivered it is effectively redundant, its purpose fulfilled. The latest revision to the Packaging Waste Directive in its fi- nal draft that was recently submitted to the Council of Ministers is consistent with FINAT's definition of used liner as process waste as opposed to packaging waste -- but this is not the end of the story. In individual national legislation in a number of countries around Europe -- including The Netherlands and the UK -- spent release liner has been defined as packaging waste at the end of its working life, and is therefore the subject of a financial levy. A final decision from the EU is expected this sum- mer and, whichever way it goes, it will have a significant effect on the market's perception of self-adhesive labeling. It is, however, FINAT's opinion that, without its empowering release liner, the self-adhesive label's overarching package of benefits -- versatility, flexibility, accurate, clean, fast label dispensing (sometimes in multiples in the one machine pass) -- would not be achievable. RELEASE LINER RECYCLABILITY Whatever the final outcome in European waste legislation, it is being proved in many arenas that release liner, both pa- per- and film-based, is recyclable, despite its release coating. FINAT is driving and supporting practical initiatives to create viable waste collection and recycling schemes, which are be- coming increasingly commercially active. I encourage brand owners and retailers, as well as their label converters, to join together and buy into what could be a real game-changer for the self-adhesive label industry by participating in formal liner waste collection schemes (See page 4). Paper release liner base remains the choice for the vast majority of label applications, and there is a developing choice of solutions for its recycling and re-use. Film-based release liners are, however, also gaining market share today; and collecting and recycling these relatively high-cost liners -- and perhaps, in the process, creating an additional revenue stream --- is an option today. 'Clean' used PET liner is a highly desirable commodity -- and it is a priority to develop a supply chain structure to make collection and recycling simple, financially attractive, and effective for all concerned in the process. WASTE COLLECTION Liner waste, ultimately, is generated at the contract pack- ers', brand owners', or retailers' premises, and is therefore largely out of the hands of the label production chain. FINAT's prime task, therefore, within the Global Packaging Project and other packaging industry initiatives, is to make end users aware of how they can link with their label suppli- ers to deliver sustainability in terms of liner waste collection for recycling and reuse. As well as confronting, managing, and addressing major issues like this; FINAT continues to provide a 'green umbrel- la' for its member companies in terms of ongoing educa- tional support on good manufacturing and environmental health and safety practice. Some of the topics we currently embrace are ink migration and set-off, solvent usage, safe UV curing, and other pressroom issues --- with the interests of the users (particularly in the food and beverage arena) a central concern. INDUSTRY PROFILE There are limits to which individual companies operating in a competitive business environment can go in meeting the needs of the three P's: people, planet, and profit. So, as I see it, there is a distinct role for an association such as FINAT in the label sustainability arena: to combine the aspirations of the many levels of the value chain into a single agenda, and to represent all its members (within the broader context of the global packaging industry) to the ultimate buyers of its prod- ucts -- the brand owners, retailers, and consumers. 12 Sustainable FLEXO SUMMER 2012 www.flexomag.com