SOUTH AFRICA – Fibre Circle, a government-recognized producer responsibility organization (PRO) for the paper and paper packaging sector, is promoting environmental sustainability through recycling.

As the designated PRO for South African paper manufacturers and importers, Fibre Circle urgently appeals to businesses and the public to recycle their self-adhesive label liners.

Self-adhesive labels adhere to a backing paper, a laminate liner of lightweight glassine paper coated with a thin silicone elastomer layer.

The backing paper is typically discarded once the label is removed and applied. Since silicone is not the most environmentally friendly material, recycling these liners presents a challenge.

Dumisani Khumalo, Fibre Circle’s marketing and communications manager, highlights the extensive use of self-adhesive labels across various industries.

For example, pharmacies use medication boxes to provide essential information; restaurants use takeaway boxes to indicate food type; and online shopping packages are often adorned with labels. Consequently, enormous amounts of discarded liners end up in landfills.

“Our country is facing a nationwide problem of running out of landfill space,” says Khumalo.

“An unnecessary amount of waste is sent to landfill sites, polluting our environment and contaminating air and water. Whether it be paper, glass, or plastic waste, we need solutions to recycle or reuse this material.”

In 2022, Fibre Circle, in collaboration with the Department of Science and Innovation and the CSIR, initiated a project to find a recycling solution for self-adhesive label liners.

Studies revealed that repulping label backing paper could yield over 90% of fibers suitable for producing new paper and paper packaging items. Large-scale trials will be completed by December 2022.

Following these findings, a pilot study on glassine liner recycling began in June 2023 in partnership with the Twinsaver mill in Belville.

Khumalo reports, “The encouraging outcome of both the study and pilot program is that Twinsaver has devised a method to incorporate this backing paper into their tissue paper manufacturing process.”

This breakthrough has prompted Fibre Circle to encourage companies using label backing to participate in this recycling initiative.

Additionally, Fibre Circle urges other manufacturers to explore methods for recycling label liners and appeals to the public and businesses, especially in the packaging and retail sectors, to recycle rather than discard their self-adhesive label liners.

In light of ESG reporting, companies are responsible for protecting the environment. Fibre Circle recognizes businesses for their waste diversion efforts by issuing certificates detailing the amount of waste diverted through this project.

Khumalo emphasizes the importance of separating backing paper from non-recyclable waste to avoid contamination and advises businesses to coordinate with their waste management companies to ensure alignment with this project.

“As a country, we face many challenges related to waste, affecting investment, tourism, and the environment,” Khumalo says.

“We cannot afford to be a throw-away society. We must think differently, understand the importance of recycling and reusing materials, and create employment through the circular economy. If other countries can do it, why not us?”

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