All posts by Miles

Labels on recycled plastic bottles

Guide to Recycling Labels

Recyclable Labels

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.

If you want help matching labels to packaging call us for advice.

Labels on Glass Bottles and Jars

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

Paper Labels
Paper labels

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.

Plastic labels

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.
Recycling labels - paper labels on cardboard
Paper labels on cardboard
  • 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 material
Label backing material

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.

Laminated labels

Paper labels are sometimes coated in plastic to give them durability.

Laminated Labels
Laminated Labels

These types of labels cannot be recycled.  They can be burned and used in energy recovery programmes.

Useful links

See our range of environmentally friendly labels here:

Products

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)’s Blog – highlighting recycling rates in 2017/18

Sustainable Labels

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.

paper mill
Pollution from paper mills

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. 

Mono-culture forest
Mono-culture forest for paper production

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.

Plastic 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 Plastic Labels

More popular 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.  The best we can obtain is 83% sugar cane derived material, 17% oil-based.  Contact us for a quote.

Clear and white plastics made from wood pulp – cellulose – if made from sustainable forestry products are an extremely eco-responsible way of making labels.  There are cellulose based labels available, though they are water soluble, so not suitable for long term storage in wet places (i.e. not good for products destined for bathroooms). 

Not only are these labels sustainable – they are also biodegradable.  See our biodegradable range here.

Useful links

Wikipedia’s article on the environmental impact of paper: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_paper

British Plastics Federation (perhaps a little biased – but it quotes the recycling rate of plastic)

https://www.bpf.co.uk/sustainability/plastics_and_sustainability.aspx

Bioplastics Article at ‘Explain that stuff’:

https://www.explainthatstuff.com/bioplastics.html

Print Station: BarTender’s Label Printing Secret

BarTender Print Station

Print Station is BarTender's Label Printing Front End

Printing labels with BarTender can be a little time consuming. 

First you need to open BarTender, then you need to find the label file.  Once you’ve found the label file you need to open it.  The next step is to choose print from the menu and start the printing process.  

Printing labels is not difficult, but if you rarely use BarTender, finding the correct label and remembering the printing process might take time.

BarTender Print Station, a BarTender ‘companion app’, is BarTender’s solution to this.  Print Station is included with all BarTender editions and makes printing labels so simple, a five year old could do it.

How to Use BarTender's Print Station

Look at the image at the top of this post if you want to see Print Station in action.

How to use Print Station:

  1. Open Print Station from your computer’s start menu.
  2. Look through the label thumbnail images until you see the label you want.
  3. Click on the label image.
  4. Choose how many copies of the label you want and press print.

Simple!

Tips & Tricks

  • Streamline your label printing process even further – set up Print Station to open straight to the folder your labels designs are kept in.
  • Where you have inexperienced BarTender users, or your label designs look complicated, by-pass BarTender designer and open Print Station when you click on a label design.  In Microsoft Windows, associate your BarTender design files (.btw)  to open Print Station instead of Bartender Designer on certain users’ computers. 

Want Help with your Print Station?

If you would like help with BarTender’s Print Station, enjoy a complimentary 30 minute remote training session to get to know Print Station.  Learning Print Station will only take five minutes – but let us show you other features to make label printing easier and faster.

Contact us by email or phone (01359 271 111) and ask for our BarTender expert.

 

Useful Links

Updated: 14 Oct 2019

Using forms to protect your label designs

BarTender Forms

How BarTender Forms Work

BarTender forms make label printing easy and error proof.

BarTender forms pop up at print time and prompt you for the information you need to print with. For example, you could be asked to choose a product description or code, a batch code and a production date.

Enter the data on the form and watch as your labels print the data.

No need to edit the label each time you print. Using BarTender forms you can even limit fields to specific characters, number formats or lengths – ensuring consistent labels and eliminating mistakes on your labels.

How to Use BarTender Forms

Choose from 19 different ways to enter data from drop down lists and calendars to number sliders and database choosers.

Add the different form controls to your form, then match the form controls to the fields on the label by dragging them together.  Add forms to your labels in minutes.

Want Help with your Label Forms?

If you would like help with your label forms, enjoy a complimentary 30 minute remote training session to get your forms started.

Contact us by email or phone (01359 271 111) and ask for our BarTender expert.

 

Useful Links

Updated: 12 Oct 2019

Datalogic’s Gryphon Cordless barcode scanner

Datalogic Gryphon 4500 family of scanner
Datalogic Gryphon 4500 Family Photograph.

We recently worked on a project and used Datalogic’s Gryphon 4500 series cordless 2D barcode scanner.  It’s a cordless scanner that can read normal 1D barcodes and 2D codes (like QR codes and datamatrix) as well.  It comes with a healthcare coating – which inhibits the growth of bacteria and cleaning the scanner with harsh chemicals doesn’t damage it.

Here are some of the things that impressed and didn’t impress us about the scanner.

Summary

What we like

  • Looks and feels like quality.
  • Scans lightning fast
  • Scans 1D & 2D barcodes
  • Displays a green good read light

What we didn’t like

  • Wasn’t easy to adjust the stand
  • Expensive

Look and feel

Datalogic Gryphon 4500

First impressions, the scanner feels good. It’s a comfortable weight – feels nice and solid without being too heavy. It’s designed in Italy and it looks good. With it being cordless, it feels tidy.

Very easy to use – with a clear aiming mark.  Useful if you’re choosing a barcode from a menu of other codes.

Datalogic GBT 4500

Bright white barcode illumination, so you can clearly see what’s being scanned.  Also better with coloured barcodes.

Gryphone Cordless scanner in stand

Automatic barcode detection and scanning. Just wave the code under the scanner and it reads it automatically.

Most of Datalogic’s range comes with a green dot good read indicator.  If you’re busy looking at the item you’re scanning then having a confirmation of sucessfully scanning your code is very helpful.  There’s also a big green indicator at the back of the scanner as well.

Datalogic Gryphon with Good read light
Gryphon - no connector chanring

The cordless Gryphon has eliminated charging contacts or sockets on the GBT4500,  the latest Datalogic cordless scanner.  No contacts to clean.  Whilst that removes a potential vulnerability on the scanner, they’ve included a hidden cable connector in the bottom of the scanner for a USB cable.

 

Negatives

There wasn’t much to fault about the Gryphon GBT4500 scanner. The only slight inconvenience I suffered was adjusting the charging stand. It has a locking screw and you need a screwdriver to unlock it.

It isn’t the cheapest cordless scanner on the market. Priced at around £450-£500 for the scanner and charging cradle, it’s an expensive option.

Summary

The Datalogic GBT4500 is a quality piece of equipment with a two-year guarantee and so many features I can’t begin to describe them all in this review.  Easy to use, lightning fast and very versatile, you’d be pleased when you bought it.  It’s not the cheapest, but it is quality.

If you’d like to find out more about the Gryphon 4500 cordless barcode scanner click here and ask me any questions.

– Miles Green

Here’s Datalogic’s Gryphon 4500 video, demonstrating the scanner and it’s features.

Don’t Let Your Labelling Hold You Up

Don't Let Your Labelling Stop You.

Labels are critical to modern organisations and with most labels printed on site, there are dozens of things that can make your labelling system vulnerable.  

90% of these reasons can be eliminated or mitigated.

You can’t afford to stop shipping because of something as simple as labels.

Complete your assessment and see how you can protect yourself from  label stoppages.

Managed Labelling Service

Concentrate on Running Your Business and Let Us Concentrate on Printing Your Labels.

Zebra ZT230 Barcode Printer

Expert Labels provides clients with a complete on-site labelling service. 

We cover everything to ensure maximum uptime, so your labels are printed when you need them.

You pay us to get your labels printed and we manage everything else.

Let us do what we do best, so you can do what you do best.

Leave us to handle:

    • label and thermal ribbon stock management,
    • Thermal label printer procurement, installation and training,
    • Software configuration, integration and training,
    • Hardware maintenance and support
    • Support desk
    • Finance arrangements – turn capital expenses into operating expenses

 

Off the shelf labels

Labels & Inks

You get optimum stock levels and the right labels when you need them.

Industrial Label Printer

Hardware

You get configured and supported label printing hardware as part of your managed labelling service.

Bartender label software

Labelling Systems

You get integrated labelling with your corporate IT systems. Your printer and label usage is monitored using software. You get trained staff and supported software.

Chris Day is an IT manager. He started at his company on the helpdesk, having got a degree in Business Studies. Gradually he worked his way up and now, in his early 40's, is the IT manager for his company.

His key objective is making sure the computer systems remains operational.

Chris' team is small - just three of them. They are stretched thin and he doesn't want them using their talents looking after label printing.

Chris doesn't want to have to deal with thermal label printers. He has a service company look after his multi-function laser printers and appreciates the advantages the simply ringing the help line and having the printer fixed gives him.

Keeping up to date with the latest thermal printer models and knowing how to support them is the last thing he wants to bother with. Keeping on top of label and ribbon stocks is easy enough, but a real nightmare when it goes wrong.

Chris wants someone who understands thermal printers to take them off his plate. He wants to concentrate on the next generation of software and hardware that his company needs to grow and prosper.
Chris Day
IT Manager

And you thought Desktop Printers couldn’t be Portable Printers!

On a recent visit to the Zebra Experience Centre (you might be mistaken for thinking I’m writing about a zoo) – a large demo room that Zebra Technologies have set up to showcase their complete range of products – I spotted this.

Zebra ZD410 with battery base
Zebra ZD410 with battery base

These are desktop printers equipped with battery packs.

These are chargeable battery add ons which fit to the base of the ZD420, ZD410 and ZD620 printers.  Designed to provide power for a complete 8 hour shift, this now means your desktop printers don’t have to be used on a desk.

Imagine: a trolley or even a vehicle can now become a printing station.  Charge the battery pack, fit the battery to the printer base and start printing.

In fact, you don’t need to remove the battery to charge it.

ZD400 Printer Charging Bases and Battery Packs

The charging base and battery are separate items and cost around £60 for the base and £300 for the battery.  For up to date prices contact us for a quote.

Slde the battery into the ZD400 printer

Fits the ZD410, ZD420 and ZD620 – both the standard and healthcare printer models.

Zebra ZD620 HC printer with battery pack
Zebra ZD620 HC printer with battery pack

If you’d like to know more, contact us or press the chat button in the bottom right of the screen.

Useful Links

Interestingly, the Zebra website doesn’t mention these battery packs, but they are genuine Zebra products.

Typharm gets up and running with the FMD.

Typharms Products
One of Typharms products

Typharm is a family owned pharmaceutical manufacturer located in Norwich.  They have been making ointments and treatments since 1985.

“The EU’s Falsified Medicines Directive came into force in February 2019 and part of that was a need to print high quality barcodes. We understood thermal label printing but needed a fully tested label printing system which verified the labels and worked with the data hub”.  Tom – Typharm

The Problem

Whilst Typharm could print thermal labels, it didn’t have up to date software in order to design Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) compliant labels – i.e. the Datamatrix code.  Another requirement of the FMD was to have barcodes that had been quality tested.

The Solution

Typharm contacted Expert Labels and a meeting was organised.  During the meeting BarTender label design software was examined and we talked about how they could overcome the barcode testing problem.

A year earlier we had worked with Identify Direct, a company that implements Omron Microscan in-line barcode verification solutions.  Using camera technology and software, it is able to compare what should have been printed with what was coming out of the printer.

It was able to work so quickly, it was able to stop the printer and warn the operator if the label being printed was wrong.  Typharm decided to use the Printronix T8304 thermal label printer.

Printronix Printer with Inline Barcode Verifier
Printronix Printer with Inline Barcode Verifier

Using this printer the inline verification system is able to stop the print, retract the label and print hash marks over it – marking it quite clearly as rejected, eliminating the possibility a non-compliant label makes its way onto a product.  It even had a warning beacon attached to the printer.

Inline Verification System
Inline Verification System On A Zebra ZT600 Printer)

The Printronix printer, IVS barcode verifier and BarTender software were installed and set up on the same day.  Expert Labels specialised in the BarTender software whilst Identify Direct handled the hardware and verifier.

The label design in BarTender appeared simple at first glance but below the surface, needed to combine a simple to use data entry form along with a data matrix 2D barcode which brought together the data that the FMD requires.  What was also important was printing the same FMD data in ‘human readable’ form on the label.

We set it up so that when the user came to print their label, the form was displayed and prompted the user to enter the various pieces of data demanded by the FMD.  Things got easier for the user but more difficult for us, the label designer. We wanted to check the data entered was correct – so we needed to set up data entry rules.

Another component of the label that BarTender handled was a unique serial number that needs to be included on the FMD label.  Typharm used a company to generate the random serial numbers. The numbers were sent to Typharm as a CSV file. BarTender took the CSV file and used the data on the label, printing different labels for each number in the file.

The project was completed in two stages.  First: printer, verifier and BarTender software installation and training – done on site.  Second: setting up the serialisation data from Tracelink when it was available for testing.  The second stage was done remotely.

Training in the BarTender label design software took place in person at Typharm.  The users were given a workbook to fill in as they worked through various exercises that practiced the features they needed for their label but also demonstrated other features that could help them in the future.

The Result

Thanks to Typharm putting the project together in good time before the FMD deadline, we were able to complete the project with time to spare.  There were a few problems with the data received from Tracelink but these were resolved by Expert Labels, working remotely, in a matter of hours.

How to make your labelling systems reliable

Ever woken up in the night in a cold sweat.  Your worst nightmare is playing out. Your label printer has stopped working, and you can’t print labels.  Your product can’t be shipped and the factory grinds to a halt.

No – I can’t imagine you’re kept awake at night thinking about labels – but perhaps you should.

Everything from label and ribbon stock outs, printing the wrong data through to printers breaking down can stop production.  I can list 30 reasons why your labelling might stop and for most modern production processes, no labels means no production.

Whilst the chances are relatively small – I’ll bet you’re like most UK manufacturers – you’ve not given this insignificant but critical part of your production process a second thought.

Labelling is one of those lesser thought-of but critical points in an organization. Not being able to put labels onto your products means that your customers can’t accept your products and your goods can’t be shipped.

Test your Labelling Resilience

If you’re concerned about bringing your operation to a grinding halt because of your labelling  – here are five things you can do to reduce the risks to your organisation:

Spare Printers

Having just one printer opens you up to risk.  It breaks and you stop printing labels.  Eliminate that risk with a spare printer.

The good thing about spare printers is that they’re not redundant. Having more than one printer means you can share the workload across your printer fleet – reducing wear and tear at one single point.

As long as you can print labels with another printer if primary printer gets dropped and damaged, you eliminate that risk.

Single Manufacturer Printer Fleet

13 Zebra label Printers
13 Zebra label Printers

Having one make of printer means interchangeable ribbons, labels, printer language and parts.

Spare printheads can be used by any one of your printers so you only need one spare.

Maintaining label and ribbons stocks are more simple.

Printers can be redeployed without needing to change printer drivers and software.

Your operators and support team know how to operate and maintain them and don’t need to spend time learning the quirks of each type of printer.

Networked PCs for up to the second status reports

For a modest increase in cost, you can network your printers.  Most industrial class printers come networked as standard.

Having a printer visible on your network means the printer fleet can be managed more effectively.

Plus, of course, you can to print from any computer on the network.

Back ups of Label design software and templates

With larger organizations, an IT manager’s neck is on the line if backing up is not done.

However, with some smaller businesses, back ups, especially on a standalone label printing computer, are not always in place.

This is a schoolboy error but could stop printing.

Automated Data Entry

An almost invisible error is where a label looks right but the barcode contains the wrong data. It might be something like the wrong use-by date or product serial number.

Industrial grade labelling software like Seagull Scientific’s BarTender enables you to automate data entry.  Date codes can be calculated and included in printed labels. Product serial numbers can be taken directly from your database or scanned from an existing barcode.

To make sure though, a quality control process that checks labels should be in place to spot data entry errors.

But there’s more

We’ve got 25 other ideas to either reduce your labelling risks or improve the efficiency of your labelling system.  Visit us to assess how resilient your labelling system is.

Summary

There’s lots of reasons why your labelling system can break down. Whilst they’re uncommon, the consequences of labelling failure can be catastrophic.

Thermal label printing is a complicated, specialist area of expertise that can be made much more efficient, effective and reliable by working with thermal labelling experts.

Servicing thermal label printers is different from standard office printer servicing.

Roll labels are made in a different way to sheet paper and buying them is different. With the likelihood that you’re using different materials such as plastics and thermal coated papers – purchasing labels is more complicated than paper.

Thermal ribbons are different from toner-based or liquid inks.

The capability of a thermal transfer printer is significantly different to that of a flat sheet inkjet or toner-based printer.

All these factors can mean a much more efficient process or a chaotic or inefficient labelling solution.

Protect Your Labelling System Today

Test your labelling Resilience

For a no commitment chat to see if you could be getting better results from your labelling or help identifying potential danger points, give Miles a call at Expert Labels Limited, click the chat button in the right bottom corner or email info@expertlabels.co.uk and ask for Miles.