Is Your Label’s Adhesive Recyclable?

Recycling Compatible Adhesives and the Evolution of Recyclable Labels

When it comes to recycling packaging and labels, there are a ton of considerations to make sure that the materials with which the product in question is produced, printed, and adhered are recyclable and environmentally sound. Last posting, we talked about sustainable options for label substrates. Today, we’re taking a look at recycling compatible adhesives and the evolution of recyclable labels.

How does Recycling Labels Work?

Let’s start with the basics. Adhesives themselves are not recyclable. When labels are recycled, the adhesive needs to be able to be removed from the paper pulp. Adhesives can create tons of problems when recycling products. Even something as simple as a stamp on an envelope can make recycling a tricky or impossible process if the adhesive used in the stamp’s production is not designed to be easily removable from the paper pulp. When choosing an adhesive for a label that is intended to be recyclable, you’ll want to choose a natural adhesive or an RCA, meaning a Recycling Compatible Adhesive.

RCAs - Recycling Compatible Adhesives

Recycling Compatible Adhesives are designed for use on paper-to-paper products. RCAs were first championed by the United States Postal Service (USPS), the Forest Products Laboratory of the USDA Forest Service, and the Tag & Label Manufacturers Institute (TLMI). These RCAs are designed to be resistant to the force of the shredder that creates the paper pulp during the recycling process and can be removed during the screening process, keeping contaminants out of the pulp that can compromise the quality of the recycled paper and can damage the machinery with which it is created. Adhesives that conform to RCA standards help to alleviate the problems that regular adhesives can cause during recycling.

Natural Label Adhesive Alternatives

Beyond RCAs, some adhesive companies are developing biodegradable adhesives made with the use of natural ingredients, reducing the risk of chemical pollutants in the recycling process and creating a truly biodegradable option for label suppliers. When used with compostable and biodegradable-certified substrates, biodegradable adhesives can be employed to make a label completely recyclable and compostable. These types of adhesives and approaches to labeling are especially applicable to food products, but have other applications as well. Recyclable-compatible and biodegradable adhesives can be mixed with plant-based plastic substrates, substrates made with sugarcane fibers, and recyclable-certified papers to create environmentally sound alternatives to traditional label materials and adhesives.

The Future of Label Sustainability at Derksen Co.

Here at Derksen Co., we’re looking to further develop our sustainable label options and are always looking to the forefront of labeling technologies that can help reduce our carbon footprint and our environmental impact. Labeling is an industry that is particularly prone to producing waste, but we’re trying to change that. With the integration of eco-friendly label materials and the innovation of new technologies in label recyclability and biodegradability, we think the future looks bright for sustainable packaging and environmentally responsible labeling.

To talk more about sustainability and to inquire about labeling possibilities, contact a member of the Derksen Co. team at or drop us a message using our inquiries page. You can call us at (920) 685-4000 or go to our contact us page for more information.

Nikita Willeford