Aluminum Recycling – with Labels
Protecting the environment is very important to us – it always has been. We take it very seriously when our products are considered to be unfriendly to the environment. Labels are not ideal on aluminum cans – this is true. As we noted in this blog post back in 2019, compatibility of the label and the container are critical. Paper labels on paper envelopes (like our self adhesive postage stamps) is one of the better options, but even in this case, the adhesive can be problematic and build up in the recycle process.
Our Customers Need Us – They Need Labels
Because many of our beverage customers are small, craft producers, they really have no other choice. Nobody wants to pollute, but there is really no other viable option. Printed cans have a 12 week lead time and the minimum practical order quantity is more than 200,000 cans. This is way too many labels for many of our brewers. They don’t have the time, money, or space to order that many cans at a time. Flexible inventory and quick turn times make labels a very necessary part of the business plan. Sleeves are no better.
Sleeves Have Diffferent Problems
Shrink sleeve labels, which we could potentially produce someday on our existing equipment, are no better. The shrinkable plastic film is STILL a contamination to the aluminum recycling stream. AND, they typically have at least an 8 week lead time. One brewer is ordering shrink sleeves in the midwest, getting them shrunk onto cans in California, and then shipping their brewery in Montana! This isn’t a green solution!
Not a Big Problem!
Sadly (for us) this really isn’t a big problem. Labelled cans are likely less than 1% of all cans recycled in America. We certainly wish this number would grow over time, because that would be good for our business, but in reality, it is a very, very small number. All the Red Bull, Bud Light, and Coors cans render the small number of labelled Craft Beer cans meaningless. And, there is other contamination.
Yes, recyclers would like the most pure aluminum possible, but it isn’t realistic to have perfectly clean cans. Gum, cigarrette butts, and other waste is in every load of cans that has ever been recycled. There has to be an allowance for contamination in the recycling process. There is no other option but to filter out all the waste – including poly labels – when the cans are melted down. Yes the problem is growing becasue small, innovative crafte producers have this option that didn’t exist 10 years ago, but it is still a very small problem compared to the economic opportunity and creative expression offered by this flexible packaging option.
Control What you Can
Given the benefits of labels, the choice you can make is to work with an eco-friendly label company like Rose City Label. We are 100% wind powered, we use water wash printing plates, and have many award winning recycling programs in our business. We were just recognized again in the FTA 2021 Sustainability Excellence Awards
If you need great labels for your canned beverage, at least you have the opportunity to work with a company with a focus on sustainability. Call us today. We can help with all your label needs.