Zebra Technologies has a wide range of industrial label printers so where do you start if you’re new to label printing and have never owned an industrial label printer before?
In this article you find:
The four main families of label printer
A comparison table of the differences between the printers
How to decide which printer you need.
So if you want to make a decision about which Zebra industrial label printer is best for you – read on.
Entry Level Industrial Printer - ZT200 Series
These are industrial sized but, compared with their older brothers, the ZT200 label printers are still babies.
These printers have limited user interfaces, a pedestrian 6 inches per second print speed and in the case of the ZT220 – a plastic case.
That said, if you want a printer that has a larger label capacity than a desktop printer and you don’t need fast print speed or great durability then the ZT200 series could well be your best choice.
They’re easy to use with handles and buttons colour coded so you can easily work out how the printer works. The bi-fold door is a handy feature that makes working in limited space a whole lot easier.
Mid-Range Industrial Printer - ZT400 Series
The ZT400 series are really powerful printers, they’re fast, packed with features and designed to be flexible.
Whilst, compared to the ZT500 and ZT600, these printers don’t quite have the staying power, they will give you years of service (if these printers perform as well as their predecessors, they will comfortably see ten years of service).
Six reasons why the ZT411 and ZT421 are better than the ZT200 series:
USB, Serial, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Dual USB Host connectivity as standard, with RFID options and two extra connection options.
Faster print speed (more than twice as fast)
Large colour touch screen
Interior lights for easy label and tag loading
203, 300 and 600 dpi print resolution options
152mm wide printer model.
High Performance Industrial Printer - ZT500 Series
The ZT500 series along side the ZT600s are the toughest printers Zebra have to offer. They are built to last and to keep going under harsh conditions 24 hours a day.
If the ZT411 is a sports car, the ZT500 is a heavy goods vehicle – built to cruise the motorways year after year. No special bells and whistles – just a good solid printer. So solid in fact, that it weighs 22KG, versus it’s lightweight ZT411 brother at a mere 14KG.
Solid construction – all metal.
203dpi or 300dpi print resolution options
104mm print width.
12 inches per second print speed – slower than the ZT411 and ZT600 printers.
You can fit a cutter and catch tray, label peeler or rewind unit yourself – without returning it to the factory
USB, Ethernet, Bluetooth and Serial connections.
450m ink ribbon length.
A more straightforward paper and ribbon path which makes it easier to load.
A grey-scale display panel with buttons (no colour touch screen on this model).
No clear panel or bifold on the side door.
Doesn’t have the colour coded operator cues found on pretty much all other Zebra printers.
No colour cues but an easier loading experience[/caption
Premium Industrial Printer - ZT600 Series
The ZT600 series are top of the Zebra printer range. Like the ZT500, they are built to last and to keep going under harsh conditions 24 hours a day. Unlike the ZT500 – they are packed with features.
If the ZT500 is an oil tanker – built to cruise the oceans year after year – the ZT600 is a cruise liner – built to keep going but with all the luxuries.
It’s a world apart from the ZT200 series – with a price tag to match.
Solid construction – all metal.
203dpi, 300 dpi or 600dpi print resolution options
104mm print width or 168mm with the ZT620.
Up to 14 inches per second print speed – for a 203dpi ZT610 (slower for higher print resolution options).
You can fit a cutter and catch tray, label peeler or rewind unit yourself – without returning it to the factory
USB, 10/1000 Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth and Serial connections.
450m ink ribbon length.
A colour display panel with buttons or optional colour touch screen.
Clear panel and bi-fold on the side door.
Colour coded operator cues.
Zebra Industrial Printer Comparison Table
104mm or 152mm
104mm or 152mm
Max print speed
Three buttons and LEDs (ZT220) & LCD display and status LEDs (ZT230)
4 inch colour touch screens
LCD display and status LEDs
4 inch colour touch screen or
Colour LCD screen & status LEDs
300m (ZT220) or 450m (ZT230)
USB & Serial
USB, Serial, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Dual USB Host
Serial, USB, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth
Serial, USB, Gigabit Ethernet, USB Host (2), Bluetooth
10/100 Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g/n wireless, one open communication slot
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, Parallel, Ethernet, applicator interface.
Parallel, Wifi, Bluetooth, Extra USB Host, Gigabit Ethernet, two open communication slots
Parallel, Wifi, Bluetooth, applicator port, Extra USB Host, Gigabit Ethernet, two open communication slots
RFID Option Available
How to Decide Which Label Printer to Buy
We’ve built a simple ‘printer chooser’ – a quick questionnaire that asks all the relevant questions you need to help narrow down the best printer for you.
Sadly, it’s not fully automated for instant answers and requires one of the team here at Expert Labels to make recommendations – but if you would like help deciding – click this button for further help.
At the end of 2019 Zebra Technologies (the world’s largest printer manufacturer) added two new thermal label printers to their range, the ZD220 and ZD230. This time at the bottom of the cost spectrum, replacing their GC420 label printer. Whilst these are small low-performance printers, they’re perfect for most office uses.
Zebra have launched two, the ZD230 and the ZD220. If you’re wondering what the differences are – read on.
Let’s take a look at the differences between the ZD220 & ZD230.
External Differences between ZD230 and ZD220
The only visible differences between the two printers is that the ZD230 has a network connector as well as a USB connector.
Performance Differences between ZD230 and ZD220
The ZD230 prints at 150mm per second (6 inches) and the ZD220 only prints at 100mm (4 inches).
The larger of the two printers, the ZD230, can be loaded with 300m thermal ribbons as well as the standard 74m lengths. The ZD220 can only use the 74m length. Loaded with 300m thermal ribbons means the ZD230 will print four times longer before you need to change ribbons.
The Zebra ZD230 can be bought with a WiFi and Bluetooth option, which the ZD220 can’t.
Shape, buttons and operation are the same between the two models.
The Direct Thermal model (the one that doesn’t use a thermal ink ribbon to print with) is smaller and is a different shape.
The Thermal Transfer model (on the left) needs space inside the case for a thermal ribbon to be loaded.
When it comes to prices between the two models things are a little odd.
The ZD220 is, as you would expect, priced pretty competitively – at around £250. The ZD230? The list price for the ZD230 is over £700. Making it nearly twice the price ot the ZD420 – the ZD230’s big brother. When I put that question to Zebra – they were unable to explain the difference.
With no commercial justification for the ZD230’s price – we can’t think of a reason to recommend it.
Summing Up the Differences Between Zebra's ZD220 and ZD230
100mm per second
150mm per second
74m or 300m length
Learn more about choosing a thermal label printer here.
Heat resistant or high temperature labels and tags are labels (or tags) that can be used at temperatures up to 1250 degrees C.
Typical uses include tracking metal products, use in ovens for food items, products through an autoclave process, ceramics and sanitary ware.
They come in different colours and finishes (gloss, silver metallic etc.).
All can be pre-printed with a logo and text and can be overprinted with variable information such as serial numbers, batch codes or barcodes.
Not All High Temperature Labels are the Same
High temperature labels (sometimes known as heat resistant or heatproof stickers) have different characteristics and won’t all perform the same way.
For example, some label materials can withstand prolonged high temperatures whilst others will only work at high temperatures for short periods.
Not all labels can be applied at high temperatures and thought needs to be given to how much rubbing or abrasion is likely to be encountered.
Heat resistant labels may also need to survive multiple reheating cycles.
Another thing to bear in mind is how the labels are applied. Some ultra-high temperature labels need special applicators.
Finally, thermal transfer ribbons (inks) need to be carefully matched to the label and need to be tested. For expert advice on what labels, tags and ribbons work best, and for a sample thermal transfer ribbon, contact us here.
How much would I pay for High Temperature Labels?
Heat resistant labels are specialist products and in the case of labels needing to survive over 350 Deg C, tend to be expensive compared to standard labels. Bear in mind the hidden costs of mis-identifying high value items, which can run into thousands of pounds, expect to pay around £1 per label or tag for labels to survive in the ultra-high temperature ranges.
Luckily, with more than 20 years experience using label and tag design software, we’re able to help you optimise the design of your labels, minimise wasted label space and ultimately reduce the cost of your high temperature labels and tags.
Keen to Test Some Labels?
In order to help you make the right decision and choose the best value labels for your project, we’re able to provide UK-based companies with samples for testing.
Click the button below or contact us with as much information (including photos if possible) about your project as you can.
If your project is commercially sensitive, we’re happy to sign an NDA.
Test them on your products and under your conditions.
We can then send you some suitable sample material (if you are located in the UK).
These labels, in gloss or matt can applied by hand and printed with a standard thermal transfer printer using a matched resin grade ribbon.
They can be printed in colour with logos and in a wide range of sizes.
These labels come in a range of specification suitable for different temperature ranges.
Polyimide adhesive labels
Up to 350C
These labels can be applied by hand and are suitable for exposure to temperatures up to 350C for short periods.
The labels can be printed with a standard thermal transfer printer using a matched resin grade ribbon.
Aluminium foil base adhesive with inorganic topcoat
up to 600C
This is an aluminium base material with a smudge proof inorganic coating and with a silicone adhesive for application at temperatures between room temperature and 450C.
A Special application method is needed.
This label has a thermal transfer topcoat and can be printed onto using a specialist thermal transfer ribbon.
Whilst this label can be stuck at temperatures up to 450C, it can withstand exposure to temperatures up to 600C.
Ceramic coated polymer film adhesive labels
Up to 1200C
These labels are specially made to order. They are designed to be stuck to metal, ceramic and glass surfaces.
They can be thermal transfer printed to give a permanent and durable image - resistant to chemicals, heat, shock and scratching. These specialist labels are heat resistant up to 1200 Deg C.
You are able to print onto them, with a specialist high grade resin based thermal ribbon.
Applying these labels needs a special technique.
There is a lead time of up to six weeks for these labels - and they come in limited sizes.
Non adhesive high temperature tag materials
Up to 1500C
These labels are made from a high temperature resistant polymer film or modified steel with thermal transfer printable inorganic coating.
These tags can be attached using ties (through a punched hole) or spot welded in place.
These are printable using a thermal transfer printer using a special high grade thermal ribbon. Heat resistant up to 1500C.
Availability of Heat Resistant labels
Many of our heat resistant labels, when combined with an approved thermal ink ribbon are automotive and UL approved.
Please remember, high temperature and heatproof labels are specialist labels and are not widely available. There are a limited number of label dimensions available from stock. Many of the ultra high temperature product has a six week lead time and comes in limited roll widths.
Additionally we can make to order and over print for you, but please bear in mind, whilst we are able to supply smaller quantities than most of our competitors, these high temperature materials are high cost and generally have minimum order quantities of at least 1000 labels.
We would be very pleased to discuss your project requirements so please contact us to find out more.
High Temperature and Heat Resistant Labels – Questions to Consider:
Why are the labels or tags being applied? (traceability, stock control or tracking)
What is the maximum temperature your label needs to survive? For how long?
At what temperature will your label be applied?
Does the label or tag need to be heated and cooled many times?
What material will the label be attached to?
Will it be rubbed?
Will any chemicals be applied to the label?
What needs to be printed on the label?
How will the labels be applied to the item?
If you need high temperature labels, speak to one of our labelling experts today call 01359 271 111. Alternatively, if you are UK based, please request a sample pack by filling in the sample request form or email us from our contact us page. Not all the label materials are available as samples.
To save yourself time, fill in the form at the link below and tell us about your high temperature project:
In late 2019 Zebra updated its ZT400 industrial printer range – the ZT410 has been replaced by the Zebra ZT411. To save you valuable time Expert Labels compares the differences between the two printers for you.
The new colour touch-screen.
Changes to the insides of the printer.
Connections at the rear of the printer.
See what improvements you’re getting when you buy a Zebra ZT411.
The ZT411 has a Big Beautiful Colour Touch Screen.
Having a large colour screen makes setting up the printer much easier – and for more complicated tasks – there are wizards to help. The wizards guide you step- by- step through configuring the printer. They even include animations to help you. (Animations and videos have been a feature of the Sato CL4NX printer for the past four years).
Wizards and animations mean operators who rarely touch the control panel can adjust settings without incurring cost and time waiting for specialist help (like contacting Expert Labels).
The ZT411 is fitted with a resistive touch screen so you can operate it with your bare hands, wearing gloves or with a stylus.
The colour screen makes it really obvious what the printer is doing, turning yellow for example, when the pause button is pressed.
The ZT411 has two USB sockets at the front of the printer – compared to just one for the ZT410. Plug in a USB scanner and USB drive, or a keyboard and scanner – slightly more useful than the ZT410.
Inside the Case
Not much has changed when you lift the bi-fold door on the printer. It still has the handy interior lighting – useful if the printer is hidden away under a desk or bench.
There’s a change to the sensors (both the transmissive and reflective) that detect the start and finish point on the labels and tags going through the printer. They’re now fully adjustable – making the ZT411 work with a wider range of labels or tags.
Printhead Element Failure Warning
One useful feature that’s making it’s debut on the ZT411 is printhead element failure warning. As you probably know, printheads fail after use. Hopfully after many years of service to you. However, it’s often difficult to see a failed element. The first you know of it is when a barcode fails to read. There are 8 elements per millimeter – so they are quite small. Using this feature you’re warned when an element fails.
At the back of the printer are the communication ports – USB, Serial and Ethernet – nothing has changed there. There’s an option slot for more specialist communications such as the Applicator Port option (used when integrating it with print and apply systems). Wifi standards tend to change regularly so with the option slots it’s possible to have the latest (or most compatible) Wifi adaptor fitted to your printer.
Summing up – Zebra’s ZT410 vs ZT411
It’s all about the new screen – that’s the most dramatic update – and to be honest – is a large improvement.
Minor tweaks to the interior.
Small improvements to the front USB and rear communications options.
The ZT411 (in its base form) just about sneaks into our ‘Best Industrial Thermal label printers for under £1,000’ post. See what else is on the list, and compare them click here.
In this post you’ll be able to quickly compare the top industrial thermal label printers for under £1000.
This post includes:
Comparative printer prices.
An expert run down of the best features the printers have to offer
Our opinion on what we think are the best printer purchases.
Weigh up the best label printer for your operation.
Expert Labels work with all the major brands and many of the specialist brands so we’re able to find the best thermal label printers to suit your needs and your budget.
See our recommendations at the bottom of the page.
Updated February 2020.
What is an Industrial Thermal Label Printer?
An Industrial Thermal Label Printer is one that takes larger rolls of labels – typically 203mm in roll diameter – unlike the desktop models that only take 125mm rolls. These printers also use ink ribbon rolls longer than 300m and usually print at speeds faster than 150mm (6″) per second.
In short they are:
Need fewer label and ink ribbon changes and
Will give years of service with larger volumes of daily printing.
A note on prices – please contact us for up to date prices – as prices change weekly. Prices have been included for comparison purposes. Prices exclude VAT.
Download and Print The List as PDF
Download a printable pdf summarising our recommendations and analysis here.
Datamax-O'Neil M-Class Mark II M-4206
Datamax-O'Neil - now Honeywell - have decades of experience with Thermal printers - gaining a popular and dependable reputation.
* This printer comes with Serial/Parallel/USB as standard. Ethernet LAN interfaces are an option.
* Modular design so you can upgrade it without specialist tools or skills.
* Quality die cast aluminium frame and case. Lightweight and strong.
* LCD screen for easier set up.
* Thermal transfer and direct thermal in one printer.
* 300m or 450m ribbon lengths - for fewer ribbon changes.
* 200mm label roll diameters for fewer roll changes.
* Includes a 1 year warranty including printhead (unless it's printed more than 24KM of labels).
Honeywell/Datamax seem to have lost their way recently. They didn't even have the correct printer image on their website.
* Doesn't have a network connection as standard.
* No bundled label design software.
* No colour or touch screen display on this model.
Best Industrial Thermal Label Printers – Our Recommendations
For value for money and price performance the Sato CL4NX is hard to beat. Take a look in detail at our write up on the printer here. The version we reviewed a few years ago has only got better. It’s clean design, attention to detail and powerful software means it’s a tough printer to beat.
The Printronix T6000 is an excellent label printer. It’s super fast, produces excellent print quality and comes with powerful remote management and configuration software. That software can email you if your printer needs attention. The Printtronix is one of a few printers available that can be fitted (at extra cost) with a camera that monitors the quality of each label printed. If barcode readability is critical to your business then this is a must – the moment a label stops scanning – the printer will pause to allow you to fix the problem.
No list would be complete without the market leader. Zebra printers are widely available, well supported and cover almost every possible application. Which model you choose depends on how many labels you print and what interfaces you need.
I’ve not been keen on the idea of thermal transfer cartridge printers. Cartridge printers use a roll of thermal ink ribbon in the form of a plastic cartridge. If you want to change a thermal ribbon, simply pull out the used ribbon cartridge and put in a new one. No threading thermal transfer ribbons. No need to clip cores into the printer.
I’ve not been keen because I’ve always felt uncomfortable being tied in to a specific supplier or manufacturer. I’ve been concerned we couldn’t get hold of a full range of ribbon materials – including different colours. I’ve felt the benefits didn’t really amount to much – but I’ve changed my mind.
What’s so good about a thermal transfer cartridge printer?
Simply: it’s so quick and easy to use. Anyone can change a ribbon in a fraction of the time it usually takes. Take a look at this video an you’ll see just how easy it is to use.
Zebra’s ZD420 Thermal transfer cartridge printer
The only cartridge printer available today is Zebra’s ZD420.
The cartridge model is one of Zebra’s ZD420 family of printers – the others being a healthcare model, a standard roll fed model and a direct thermal model.
It quickly established itself as a popular and easy to use desktop label printer since it’s launch in 2016.
Where you’d use a cartridge printer
We’ve been working with a company that has untrained volunteers printing labels on demand for customers.
Imagine you have a competition. You’re labelling clients’ bags before transporting them to the end point. You have a couple of volunteer staff looking after clients, entering data, putting bags in a van and looking after the printers.
There’s a small queue of customers and suddenly the ribbon runs out. Your volunteer has never changed a roll of ribbon and has barely seen a thermal printer before. He tries to figure it out for himself. He looks at the diagram on the printer, he asks his colleague and he even asks the people waiting. Then he gives it a go.
Five minutes later the ribbon is changed – but it’s been a struggle, it takes time and it prevents staff from looking after their customers.
With a cartridge printer he’d have opened the printer, unwrapped the cartridge, pulled out the old one and slotted in the new one. All done in a matter of seconds – without the need for training. No need to look at instructions.
Ribbon Cartridge Size Options
This is where the ribbon cartridge struggles, compared with standard ribbons. There are only three different cartridges available – Wax, Wax resin and Resin. All ribbons are 110mm wide and 74m long.
All thermal cartridge ribbons are black.
In the past twenty years I imagine we have only sold a few dozen boxes of coloured ribbons, so the limited colour range is unlikely to affect many of you.
Another big downside – the cost of a ribbon cartridge is around twice as much as a standard Zebra ribbon, at around £5 per cartridge. If you are printing a 100mm x 100mm paper label, that still only works out at 0.7p per label for ink.
Summing up – Thermal Transfer Cartridge Printers
Extremely convenient and fast – minimises downtime and customer inconvenience
No training needed – anyone can quickly use the printer
Limited range of ribbons – not a problem if that suits the label or tag you’re printing
Expensive in comparison to standard ribbons.
Want to know more about cartridge printers? Want to buy a cartridge printer or cartridges? Contact us here or complete our form below.
With plastic doing so much harm to our environment – more and more of us are looking at biodegradable packaging to minimise damage. This guide to biodegradable labels will help you in your small but significant contribution to the war on plastic.
How can you, as someone who buys labels for your product packaging, meet your customers demands and use biodegradable labels to reduce environmental damage?
Biodegradable labels is a complicated subject and to fully understand it, you’ll need to read all of this guide. Even though these labels will biodegrade there are practical things to consider from the point of view of the packaging and the local authority that handles your customers’ household waste.
What are Biodegradable Labels?
First: biodegradable labels are not labels that are made from plant-sourced or sustainable materials. It is possible to make labels from plant sources (such as sugar-cane) that are NOT biodegradable (though they may be recyclable).
Biodegradable labels are labels that will be broken down by nature – fungus, bacteria, natural chemicals and plants.
Technically everything is broken down by nature – even plastic – the real question is:
how long it takes,
what conditions it breaks down under and
what it breaks down into (or what gasses it emits) during the process.
There are no standards we are aware of for biodegradable labels – though there are for compostable labels. We’ll look at compostable labels below.
Some biodegradable labels have a chemical added to them that needs to be exposed to oxygen or water to trigger the decomposition process. These oxo-biodegradables create micro-plastics that are considered harmful and therefore not a good alternative to standard plastics.
Oxo-plastic labels can’t gain compostable EN13432 certification.
None of our biodegradable range of labels are made with Oxo-biodegradable plastics.
Available Biodegradable labels
Despite the importance of biodegradable labels in the news, the industry has been slow to catch up.
Composting is the breakdown of materials into the soil. The good thing about composting is that there is a standard to measure against.
Other forms of Biodegradablility (such as into the air or water) don’t have such a standard.
The most widely accepted standard for composting is the European compostable packaging standard (EN13432).
Labels that meet the EN13432 standard break down into water, CO2 and new cell biomass.
To meet the standard they have to do so within six months.
Something to consider, however, are the conditions under which the composting takes place.
Importantly, the standard requires the label not to generate any harmful by-products. Particular attention is paid to potentially toxic elements.
A key part of the European standard is that after 12 weeks, 90% of the material is in pieces smaller than 2mm.
If the material passes all the criteria then it can display the Compostable logo.
EN13432 applies to industrial composting as opposed to home composting.
The difference between home composting and Industrial or commercial composting are the conditions the process is done under.
For example, industrial composting is tested at 58C, home composting is typically around 30C.
There are no international standards for home composting.
The European EN13432 standard includes the glue, label and ink.
Contamination of waste by biodegradable plastic labels is a problem
Despite their eco-friendly credentials, biodegradable plastic labels are a problem for home and municipal waste disposal.
Biodegradable plastic can’t be recycled with standard plastics. If they are included with plastic they will contaminate it. As they are not paper they will contaminate paper as well.
They can’t be disposed of with food waste because they take longer to biodegrade (unless they are put through an industrial composting process).
In many local authorities, biodegradable plastic labels go to landfill, and whilst they will breakdown more rapidly than standard plastics, and won’t leave any toxic residues, they may contribute to powerful greenhouse gasses such as methane.
Identifying Biodegradable plastic labels
Even with the biggest ‘Compostable’ logos, it’s practically impossible for human or machine sorters to recognise biodegradable labels from normal plastic labels.
Generally speaking standard plastic contamination in garden or food waste is a big problem in composting. Local authorities are particularly sensitive to plastic contamination. If they see any plastic – biodegradable plastic labels or standard plastic labels in organic waste, it will be rejected and sent to landfill or burned.
Only put Biodegradable Labels on Biodegradable packaging
It’s no good putting biodegradable stickers onto product that isn’t biodegradable. A biodegradable label on a glass bottle is a waste of money.
Not only does the packaging need to be biodegradable – it needs to look biodegradable. If it doesn’t look biodegradable waste handlers will send it to landfill where it will break down slowly.
Currently, the only combination of stickers and packaging that look biodegradable are paper stickers on cardboard packaging.
Conclusion – Use Paper or Recycleable Plastic
It’s impossible to say what conditions labels will be disposed (or discarded) under.
Biodegradable plastics might not degrade as completely and as quickly as we want them to. If they go through the waste disposal system (as hopefully the bulk of them will) they might cause more problems than they solve.
My recommendation is to use paper labels, without any plastic coating and with an adhesive that will break down without leaving any harmful by-products. What we describe as a biodegradable paper label.
If you are using plastic packaging, I hope (and expect) most of your packaging will be disposed of responsibly. Use material that can be recycled and use a recyclable label not a biodegradable plastic sticker.
Disposed of properly
Biodegradable paper labels
Recycled plastic labels
Paper or card packaging
Biodegradable paper labels
Biodegradable paper labels
We want to help you improve our environment.
We are as keen to improve our environment as you are and want to help. This guide to biodegradable labels is only a start. Please pick up the phone and call 01359 271 111, click on the chat button on the right of this screen or contact us and ask us how we can help you help our environment.
The concise guide to compostable packaging and products – EN 2013432 – by the Association for Organics Recycling:
According to The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) the recycling rate for UK homes has risen to 45% of all household waste in 2017. Whilst we are all recycling more, are we recycling our labels properly?
Let’s talk about recyclable labels for a moment. What can you, as someone who buys labels for your product packaging, do to ensure your customer’s recycled labels aren’t contaminating recycled waste.
Official Advice on Recycling Labels
The official advice is remove your labels – but no one will do that in reality. The solution: to stop contamination is to match the label material to the packing material. That means that the labels need to be made from the same material as the packaging.
One other consideration is adhesive. We thought adhesive might be a problem so we asked the experts. According to Suffolk based metal and waste recycling specialists, Sackers Ltd, label adhesive is a small problem and is processed easily. High volumes of labels (i.e. a skip full) could not be put through the recycling process and would need to be burned for energy.
There is no need to remove labels from items, the recycling process can handle them.
Advice from Sackers Ltd was: if in doubt put it out for recycling – anything that can’t be recycled is burned to produce energy. This piece of advice needs to be taken with care, as each UK local authority has different waste to energy capabilities.
So despite this rule of matching labels to packaging – you might have noticed – not many labels are made from glass. So what do we do about labelling bottles?
Our advice – apply a paper label. If your customer’s recycling process involves washing first – then the labels will be washed off. If it is crushed then put in a furnace, the labels and glue will burn off.
Which Labels can be Recycled?
Paper labels can only be recycled with paper or board packaging.
If your paper labels are placed on plastic bottles ask for a ‘wash off’ adhesive to make the recycling process much easier.
Even if your paper labels are blended with other materials, it could still be placed in the recycling bin as it can be burned and used for energy.
The only thing that cannot be recycled is a label stuck to film, unfortunately, this will end up in landfill.
Labels are usually made from Polypropylene (PP) or Polyethylene (PE). Luckily, most packaging material is made from PP and PE. Both can be recycled together.
Make Label Recycling Easy for Your Customers
If you are buying labels from us, this is what you can do to improve recycling.
Match the correct label material to your product packaging. For example: paper labels onto paper or cardboard packaging and PE or PP labels on PE and PP packaging.
If you have correctly matched your labels and packaging, tell your product consumers to leave the labels on, clean any bottles or containers and put them into the recycling bin.
Clearly print the Recycling logo on your packaging.
Do not apply compostable labels to plastic or glass packaging that can be recycled.
Ask customers not to put compostable labels into the recycle bin.
Recycling Label Backing Paper
Label backing paper is made to be strong enough to be pulled through printing presses but it’s also designed to be translucent, so the sensors in the printer can see the gaps between labels.
Because it needs to be strong, backing paper is not a good material to make from recycled paper.
Backing paper is also coated in non-stick silicon which makes it less desirable for recycling. There is a recycling company, here in the UK, who takes backing paper and label waste, but sadly, it just gets turned into energy.
Paper labels are sometimes coated in plastic to give them durability.
These types of labels cannot be recycled. They can be burned and used in energy recovery programmes.
See our range of environmentally friendly labels here:
There is a lot of talk about limiting the harm we’re doing to our environment. Being sustainable is the ability to live without depleting our natural resources. Modern packaging is often held up as a culprit in the damage we are doing to our environment. This article will help you understand how sustainable labels really are.
Sustainability is both the materials the labels are made from and the process the labels are made under.
There are always two sides to many of the points raised in this article. For example: the forests grown in order to make paper are good for capturing CO2 but, as they are usually grown in large single species plantations – this can be bad for bio-diversity. I’m not writing this article to promote one side or the other in this debate. Our business is focused on labels – but we all depend on the environment for our survival as a species.
Paper label manufacturing
The paper making process uses water, wood and energy and leads to water and air pollution. Paper manufacturing accounts for up to 5% of pollution in North America. In the last few decades paper mills have reduced their pollution significantly and I’m sure technology and innovation will reduce the environmental impact further, however paper isn’t without it’s harmful byproducts.
Water is the ultimate recycled product. Should we worry about water use in paper making? If it’s cleaned and returned to rivers and lakes, water consumption in paper making isn’t a problem.
Paper’s main raw material – wood – is renewable and good for CO2 capture.
Energy use – Whilst paper product uses huge amounts of energy, most of it is sourced from bio-mass energy generation.
All the labels we supply are paper or plastic.
All the paper we supply comes from sustainable sources (i.e trees that are farmed as opposed to tropical rainforest). However, paper is usually made using chemicals that are harmful to the environment.
Chlorine is used in the paper making process – to whiten the paper. As you would probably guess, Chlorine is toxic and, as a by-product of paper production, is harmful to the environment. Our standard paper label material uses chlorine, though the same chlorine compound is used to treat drinking water.
Sustainable Paper Labels
Standard paper labels are made from virgin paper with chlorine bleaching. Paper is sustainable, but the paper production process has a significantly damaging effect on the environment
We are able to supply a recycled paper label that is chlorine free, with a wood free backing paper (the paper that the labels are stuck to on the roll). Interestingly people rarely ask for recycled paper labels and the availability of the material is limited. Contact us and ask us about recycled paper labels.
Most of the labels we supply are made from Polypropylene (PP) or Polyethylene (PE).
This type of plastic label is made from oil, but is easily recycled. The most recent figures I found for the proportion of plastic that’s recycled was from 2008 and 21% of plastic was recycled.
However, plastic labels are not biodegradable (unless you count hundreds of years as biodegradable), are harmful to nature and are non-renewable.
From a marketing point of view, plastic labels are not popular.
Sustainable BioPlastic Labels
More popular BioPlastic label materials are PP and PE labels made from corn, coconut or potato. These starch-based plastics are sometimes compostable. They are not widely available and relatively expensive, but we are able to supply you with them.