This year’s seminar -- with Dow Corning and UPM as platinum sponsors and Avery Dennison, Blue Star Silicones, Mondi and Wacker as gold sponsors – offered an in-depth program. A major feature was a focus on the key issues facing the label release liner segment today – particularly linerless labeling developments and release liner recycling. The seminar represented a perfect forum at which industry players could discuss a combination of market trends and developments, and conduct an open dialog on core topics.
Opening the seminar, Corey M Reardon, president/CEO of AWA Alexander Watson Associates, provided an overview of the global release-liner market as a whole – one of the core verticals in the company’s market research and consulting activities – with a focus on the fact that 49% of the total market is consumed in pressure-sensitive label applications.
Dan Muenzer, vp-Marketing, Constantia Flexibles, followed with an insightful and comprehensive presentation on labeling trends, posing the key question: ‘Is this Label Thing Ever Going to Slow Down?’ Based on AWA’s market data and his own assessment, pressure-sensitive labeling using a release liner is still, he said, ‘winning’; but shrink sleeves, flexible packaging, and direct-to-container print – among other technologies -- are challenging the status quo, and expanding the packaging and labeling options for brands. Creative solutions enhancing shelf appeal and personalized consumer features in packaging and labeling are today driving continued growth across all technologies.
The developments and progress in linerless pressure-sensitive labeling were the subject of an informative session of presentations and subsequent discussion, with contributions from Mike Cooper, business dev. dir., Catchpoint Ltd; Noel Mitchell, vp-R&D, Films, UPM Raflatac; and Yves Lafontaine, sales agent-North America, Maan Group.
Linerless labeling technologies are now viewed as a real opportunity by many laminate producers. The growing use of new thin film technology and associated equipment developments are together creating and supporting a viable ’pathway to linerless’. The industry’s logistics, efficiency, waste footprint, shelf appeal and overall sustainability will benefit from the innovations and progress made in linerless labeling over the last 12-18 months.
It is estimated by AWA, in a new Linerless Labeling AWAreness™ Report to be published later this year, that linerless technology is soon to represent 4-5% of the total pressure-sensitive laminate market. The panel of experts presenting during this session shared this assessment of the growing level of penetration.
Release liner recycling
According to Reardon: ‘In addition to the threat and competition from alternative labeling and packaging technologies, the issues around release liner recycling and end-of-life solutions for release liner in the pressure-sensitive label segment are the most critical factors facing the industry today’. He added: ’Although the issues surrounding release liner waste are not necessarily directly affecting the success of pressure-sensitive labeling today, it is absolutely essential that the industry understands what is happening with regard to recycling; and what the options are. To be in possession of fact-based knowledge and current information on volumes and recycling rates is critical if industry participants are to be proactive in the future and be able to benchmark their activity.’ Reardon referenced a recent fact-finding study on release liner recycling and legislation in Europe, which AWA conducted for FINAT earlier this year.
Recycling: a value chain overview
The release liner recycling session and discussion was supported by four expert presentations, providing an overview that linked the entire value chain, from paper supplier through pressure-sensitive laminator, to label converter and end user. Jaakko Rautalahti, head-Product Development, UPM Label, Pack & Release, opened the session from the perspective of a leading release base paper supplier, highlighting recycling and the attendant responsibilities of the supply side of the industry. He emphasized current practice, where liner waste is often used in mixed waste streams, but proposed an optional alternative closed-loop model, which would be more sustainable in the long term.
Renae Kulis, senior dir.-Director, Global Leader of Sustainability for Avery Dennison, followed with an enlightening presentation focused on sustainability and its purpose, and on her company’s sustainability goals and the foundations of their thinking on sustainability. She shared Avery Dennison’s 2025 goal to eliminate 70% of matrix and liner waste from the value chain and supported the concept outlined by UPM Label, Pack & Release: a closed-loop recycling model, using old liner to make new liner, and thus, in essence, creating a circular economy or a circular value chain for paper release liner.
Next to speak was Calvin Frost, chair of the Environmental Committee of TLMI and chairman of Channeled Resources Group, who spoke with typical candor and undisputed expertise on the history and current state of affairs around release liner recycling in North America. He explained what TLMI is currently doing regarding its L.I.F.E. and LCA initiatives, and included the upcoming steps for qualifying and quantifying what is being done in North America through a similar exercise to that completed by FINAT earlier this year.
A converter’s value proposition
Adding the final touches to the discussion on release liner recycling, and bringing home the important message of ‘responsibility’ and ‘good business sense’ was Robert Parker, owner of Label King, pressure-sensitive label converters located in San Diego, CA, who offered some of the very practical and successful solutions for liner recycling which have positioned his company at the forefront, and provided his customers with a value proposition which he challenges his competitors to equal.
Following an afternoon coffee and networking break, Frost facilitated a lively discussion complete with audience Q&As, before Reardon closed the seminar and invited attendees to a reception sponsored by Avery Dennison. The provocative final discussion was intended to generate ideas that could increase spent liner recycling., and two creative ideas emerged. Label King’s Parker suggested that all release liner be back-printed with a recycling logo – with the objective of taking out the guesswork as to whether the release liner is recyclable or not. In fact, the simple message to the generator of used liner would, he said, be: ’This spent liner should be kept separate from my other waste because it is recyclable’. Seminar delegates debated this idea in an excellent and lively group discussion in which all parties participated. Generally the idea was liked, and considered worthy of further evaluation.
The way forward
The second creative idea that came out of the discussion, and which met with a general consensus, was to request TLMI to facilitate a meeting with the pressure-sensitive laminators in North America to discuss the above idea and to work to develop a strategy to encourage, educate on, and stimulate liner recycling, with the objective to have all self-adhesive laminators on the same page and supporting an industry-wide approach without any dilution from competing solutions. It was emphasized that that this is an industry problem, and everyone must therefore embrace one solution.
The AWA Label Release Liner Industry Seminar brought together delegates from key companies in the industry, literally from all over the world -- North America, Europe, Asia, and South America -- and provided an appropriate platform to ’have a conversation’ on the prime topics concerning the opportunities and challenges facing the release liner and labeling sector which, as Reardon underlines, ‘has a major influence on the total release liner industry and generally on the whole world of product decoration and packaging.’
The next major release liner event on AWA Alexander Watson Associates’ calendar is the annual AWA Global Release Liner Industry Conference and Exhibition to be held in Chicago on March 29-31, 2017.
More info: www.awa-bv.com