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Sustainability & Recyclability

Although sustainability can be defined in many ways, it usually includes minimal use of labor, energy and non-renewable resources during manufacturing and recycling.

In-mold labeling (IML) is more sustainable than other pre-decorating labeling methods because of what it does not have, including:

  • Post-mold flame treaters
  • Post-mold labeling machines
  • Additional investment or financing costs
  • Utilities, such as electricity and gas, to operate those machines
  • Additional wet or hot melt glue
  • Extra labor to operate the labeling machines
  • Extra floor space for the labeling machines
  • Release liner to recycle, incinerate, or bury in a landfill
  • Additional handling


Digital Watermark Test Underway to Improve Recycling Clarity

In-Mold Labels One of APR's Preferred Labels or Inks

AIM, the European Brands Association, and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste announced a partnership to drive the next stage of development for intelligent waste sorting under the Digital Watermarks Initiative HolyGrail 2.0. They will work with the City of Copenhagen to conduct the semi-industrial test phase of the pilot. With this milestone, developers move one step closer to precision identification and sorting of plastic packaging waste through digital watermarks, with the potential to revolutionize the sorting and recycling process of plastic packaging.

Over the next four months, a prototype sorting detection unit will be installed at the Amager Resource Centre (ARC) in Copenhagen, where the trials and demonstrations with around 125,000 pieces of packaging representing up to 260 different stock-keeping units (SKUs) will be held. Engineers will test for several parameters including the speed and accuracy of the system, to ensure its ability to withstand the pressures of full-scale industrial operations. If successful, digitally watermarked products could be introduced to store shelves in Denmark, France and Germany by the first half of 2022 for in-market demonstrations and industrial-scale trials.

Read the full press release here:

In-mold labels are one of three label/ink methodologies designated as a “preferred” technology by the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR). According to APR’s website:


In-mold labels of a compatible polymer

In-mold labels are not removed in the recycling process since they are bonded with the wall of the package. They will flow though the recycling process with the PP and be blended with the recycled PP. The lack of adhesive is beneficial to recycling since it cannot affect color or other mechanical properties. The label polymer and ink should be compatible with PP so as not to negatively affect its properties.


APR reminds those selecting design characteristics that, “Label selection should be considered carefully to find the solution most compatible with the recycling process that also provides the necessary performance characteristics. At a minimum, labels must be designed so NIR sorting machinery can identify the bottle polymer with the label attached, and labels should use adhesives that release from the bottle. Removing adhesives is a significant component to the cost of recycling so the packages using the lowest quantity of appropriate adhesive are the most compatible.”

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