Labels are literally everywhere! They are essential to reassure customers about what they are buying and what that item might contain – and we certainly take labels for granted. But what about the hidden cost of waste behind traditional labelling? Do we take that for granted too?
Thermal Printer Support Ltd (TPS), the UK’s leading specialist supplier of thermal transfer and direct thermal print systems, says disposing of standard liner labelling material continues to be an environmental challenge. This is driving the growing demand for alternative, greener linerless labels. Traditionally, it’s linered labels that have been applied on all kinds of products. But businesses are under increasing pressure from both government and consumers to reduce waste associated with liner labels which are not easily recycled – and often end up in landfill.
The global linerless labels market is estimated to have grown by around 4.6 percent annually since 2017 (source: European Union Directive 94/62/EC on Packaging and Packaging Waste) and these solutions are being successfully used for a wide variety of applications, ranging from food and beverages to pharmaceutical labelling, retail and parcel delivery.
Key benefits of linerless printing include significant waste reduction, improved productivity as media rolls contain 50% more labels, at the same time taking up less space. Slip hazards from liner piles that collect beneath printers are eliminated and shipping weight can be cut by up to 40%. This in turn can reduce CO 2 emissions as fewer vehicles are required – or more can be packed into the same transportation. Last but not least linerless labelling ensures flexibility for printing varying label lengths.
However, one size doesn’t fit all and implementing a linerless solution can be tricky, says TPS Business Development Manager Claire Kirk. She explains: “First, you need to ensure that your printer and linerless labels are compatible with each other. One key factor is to ensure that your linerless labels have been fully tested with your specific printer.
“Printer brands have differences in form factor and mechanical design requiring specific formulations in the adhesive and label coating. If the adhesive is too strong, the printer may not work with the material. If the adhesive is too weak, it may not stay attached to the intended product. TPS is UK distributor for Godex, and TSC and Zebra partners, who all supply both hardware and linerless media for the perfect fit. Let’s not forget also that labels must also be properly attached to the core to ensure the sensor can indicate when you have run out of media and to prevent jamming.”
Due to the operational advantages coupled with excellent print quality, the adoption of linerless systems is set to gather momentum. While many businesses have embraced automation others have been daunted by the prospect of having to manually make complex adjustments to their labels when regulations change. However, when dealing with high volumes of labels per day it only takes one oversight to slip through the net and you have a high risk potential.
As many businesses look to meet customer demand with fewer employees, linerless labelling systems supports this with more uptime, longer rolls and more prints per roll, resulting in reduced roll changes and increased productivity.
Environmental initiatives are becoming more important – so a shift towards linerless as a greener, cleaner choice to liner labels is not a surprise. With linerless, there is no waste – once you’ve applied your labels you’re finished! Human interventions are few and far between so an automated linerless label applicator or print & apply system will likely pay for itself very quickly, making it a great investment.
Claire Kirk adds: “Experienced label printing suppliers like TPS can help companies of all sizes – from sole trader operations to large multi-site retailers where printers are networked and controlled by head office. Old artwork can be migrated and we can give advice to identify the right printing equipment to deal with production volumes and requirements. Not to mention having service and installation teams on site to provide training during installation.”
The print industry has long been supporting businesses with the equipment, labelling guidance and sector-specific advice they need to implement changes. There’s no doubt that, thanks to environmental and productivity benefits, linerless has a key role to play going forward.