Guide to Label Recycling


Guide to Label Recycling

Save paper, save trees, save the planet.

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Recyclable Labels

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) reported that UK homes achieved a recycling rate of 45% for household waste in 2020.

Whilst we are all recycling more, are we recycling labels properly?

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?

Do I Need to Remove Labels Before Recycling?

The official advice recommends that you remove your labels, however, realistically, no one does that.

The solution: to stop contamination – match the label material to the packing material.

Please contact us for help matching your label material to your packaging.

Recycling Label Adhesive

We thought adhesive might be a problem so we asked the recycling 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.

Take this piece of advice 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.

A label being peeled away
A label being peeled away

Labels for Glass Bottles and Jars

Despite the 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.

Glass jars with recyclable paper premium labels
Glass jars with recyclable paper labels

Which Labels can be Recycled?


Paper labels should only be recycled with paper or board packaging.

If your paper labels are placed on plastic bottles ask us for a ‘wash off’ adhesive to make the recycling process much easier.

You can still place paper labels blended with other materials in the recycling bin, as it can be burned and used for energy.


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.

The only thing that cannot be recycled is a label stuck to film, unfortunately, this will end up in landfill or burned for energy.

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 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

Backing paper is not a good material to make from recycled paper, because it needs to be strong.

Recycling backing paper can be challenging because it is coated in non-stick silicon, which makes it less desirable for recycling firms. 

There is a recycling company, here in the UK, who takes backing paper and label waste, but sadly, it just gets turned into energy.

If you work with lots of backing paper – contact us for advice on how to dispose of it.

man peeling label

Laminated Labels

Paper labels are sometimes coated in plastic to give them durability. You cannot recycle laminated labels, but they can be burned and used in energy recovery programs.

As always, we are here to help. If you have a question, or specific design requirement you would like to discuss with us, please get in touch. Email or call us on 01359 271 111, we’d love to hear from you.


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