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Linerless labels have been around for a long time, although their use is not widespread. The main reason why is that they don’t yet suit or meet the needs of many of the applications required by the current market, but they’re emerging as an option with multiple advantages over traditional adhesive labels. Graphispag, set to take place from 24 to 27 May at the Gran Via exhibition venue, will focus on the main and fastest-growing graphic specialities, one of which is labels, an area that isn’t exempt from the challenges involved in attempting to combine an efficient production system with sustainable practices and a commitment to the environment.

Image courtesy of Conver Autoadhesivos, S.A.

More than 100,000 million parcels are shipped around the world on an annual basis and the volumes are expected to reach between 220,000 and 262,000 million parcels by 2026. The rise of e-commerce in recent years, within the context of the pandemic, has led to an unprecedented increase in the global volume of parcels. Bearing in mind that most of these parcels have shipping labels, there is an increasing need to develop and implement labelling solutions that are as efficient and environment-friendly as possible.

Most adhesive labels currently have a short life span, as they usually accompany the product until the moment of its sale or use. In addition, although this may go unnoticed by the end consumer, each square metre of self-adhesive material requires another square metre of siliconised support in paper or plastic. This generates added material costs and increased waste. It’s better not to generate waste than to recycle it. This is where linerless labels can make a difference; the labelling system doesn’t use paper as a support and allows the adhesive labels to be printed on an ongoing basis.

For some years there have been initiatives and experiences, with greater and lesser success and implementation, geared towards recovering siliconised supports for recycling. This is an ambitious proposal and not without its difficulties, as most siliconised supports are generated in a highly disperse manner in amounts that make the subsequent recycling logistics difficult or even impossible. Thermal paper labels constitute one of the new technologies and, together with the arrival of paperless label dispensing machines on the market, they are now an increasing reality. In addition, new proposals are emerging and opening up the door for other applications and types of labels to be used without the need for siliconised supports.

Image courtesy of Conver Autoadhesivos, S.A.

Benefits of the linerless system

Generally speaking, linerless labels lead to cost savings for the user and less material waste.

  • A reduced environmental impact, given that there is no waste as no paper is used
  • Flexibility when it comes to the availability of different label sizes, as the roll can be adjusted to meet specific needs
  • Variety of materials and weights
  • Less economic cost per label manufactured
  • A larger print image on both sides
  • Reduced waste in the production process
  • Simplicity, as the label doesn’t have to be peeled off manually

Image courtesy of Conver Autoadhesivos, S.A.

Linerless versus self-adhesive labels

David Brugalla is the manager of Conver Autoadhesivos S.A., a company specialising in the printing of self-adhesive labels on rolls for industry and commercial distribution. The company has over 50 years’ experience in the printing of adhesive and linerless labels and sleeves. It has been manufacturing linerless labels since 2009 and offers different solutions for sectors such as logistics, hospitality and food.

David Brugalla, gerent de Conver Autoadhesivos, S.A.

Brugalla offers his vision as to why linerless labels aren’t just a product for the future, but also a reality to be implemented in the present: “We’re currently witnessing a clear commitment to sustainability and the environment in the industry, and linerless labels are the most sustainable alternative for labelling products”.“Besides, the current shortage of raw materials in our sector, chiefly due to a lack of liner, makes this option a safe bet”, concluded the company’s spokesman.

This type of label is well-suited to containers of different materials, sizes or shapes, making them highly versatile. They can be found on the labelling of jars, cases, thermoformed packaging and tubs in general, as well as weighing applications and perishable products such as packaged foods.

But are we talking about replacing adhesive labels with linerless labels? No, Brugalla is instead in favour of a co-existence of the two systems in accordance with the needs of the product, and he believes that the two labelling solutions complement each other: “While the use of linerless labels will increase, it will do so gradually, sector by sector and not on a massive scale”. Food and thermal paper labels are moving forward at a healthy pace. When asked about the limitations of these types of labels for their widespread use in all sectors, the manager of Conver Autoadhesivos S.A. explained that “like all products, linerless labels have evolved and research is currently being carried out to ensure that this system covers all the sectors”, and, in this sense, he predicts that “in the future it will be like this, but always in co-existence with the self-adhesive label”.

Cristina Benavides, Graphispag contributor