The report commissioned by label papers and flexible packaging paper manufacturer Brigl & Bergmeister in conjunction with its UK agent Papico has revealed some fascinating statistics concerning the environmental properties of paper labels.
The report is aimed at providing retailers with a detailed understanding of the carbon footprint of paper labels compared to plastic. In addition to its own findings, Papico also commissioned Intertek Expert Services, a division of Pira International to conduct a streamlined comparison that looked at the production; transportation; disposal and recycling of both types of labels.
Its study showed a ‘cradle to grave' assessment of paper and plastic and includes the production and delivery of materials; polymerisation; extrusion and thermoforming; transportation and waste processing.
The report also refers to a study from the research institute CE Delft (Holland), which came to the conclusion that the carbon footprint of synthetic plastics is about five times higher than that of paper.
Brigl & Bergmeister's tireless work to further improve its environmental status is also reflected in the report. It has spent millions in recent years diversifying energy usage from fossil fuels to hydro-electric, sourced from the rivers on which the mills are situated to investment in thermal capture systems. Brigl & Bergmeister is now an exceptionally low-carbon producer of papers and makes a very good contrast with the carbon cost of plastic label material producers.
Using the Niklasdorf production data instead of WRAP's production data (which is based on typical mills rather than ‘best in class' mills), the carbon footprint of paper is reduced by more than 20% to 0.873 grams CO2 eq. per gramme of paper - that is nearly 70% lower than a plastic label of the same weight.
The environmental performance of paper gets even better if ‘best in class' paper production is considered. The results show, according to Intertek/Pira, that even if it was possible to make a plastic label from 100% recycled polypropylene, gramme for gramme it would still have a larger carbon footprint than paper.
Papico director Paul Johnston-Knight commented on the release of the report. "It is excellent that paper labels have achieved recognition for being a sustainable way for brand owners to effectively market a product. There is no drop in speed or efficiency when moving from reel-fed plastic to paper but a huge gain in terms of environmental sustainability."
When looking at the recyclability of paper labels compared to labels manufactured from synthetic materials the difference is stark; as a percentage far more paper than plastic is recycled. Additionally the low degradability of polypropylene not only affects the world's oceans but its half-life period in rubbish dumps is at least 500 years. According to the Intertek/Pira study even in landfill paper labels degrade within a month or two and the natural resource depletion of paper is 84% lower than plastic.