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Guide to Biodegradable Labels From BioLabels.co.uk

What are Biodegradable Labels?

Biodegradable labels are labels that will be broken down by naturally. Technically speaking, everything is broken down by nature eventually, even plastic. Therefore, the real question are: how long it takes, what conditions it breaks down under, and what it breaks down into during the process.

Materials are deemed biodegradable when they can be broken down into natural elements such as water and carbon dioxide by living organisms. It is, however, important to note that everything is technically biodegradable and what matters is the period required for a certain material to biodegrade, as some will take thousands of years.

When we talk about biodegradable labels, we are referring to materials that don’t leave any trace once broken down, and therefore are not harmful to the environment.

There are no standards we are aware of for biodegradable labels, although there are for compostable labels.

Compostable Standards

Composting is the breakdown of materials into the soil – i.e. the act of collecting and storing plant material so it can decay and be added to soil to improve its quality. Composting refers to the natural process of recycling food scraps, lawn cuttings, paper, cardboard, labels and other organic wastes to create fertilizer.

The most widely accepted standard for composting is the European compostable packaging standard (EN13432). Labels that meet the EN13432 standard break down into water, CO2 and new cell biomass. To meet the standard they have to do so within six months.

The criteria for the industrial compostability of packaging are set out in the European standard EN 13432. EN 13432 requires the compostable plastics to disintegrate after 12 weeks and completely biodegrade after six months. That means that 90 percent or more of the plastic material will have been converted to CO2. The remaining share is converted into water and biomass – i.e. valuable compost. Materials and products complying with this standard can be certified and labelled accordingly.

Something to consider, however, are the conditions under which the composting takes place. Importantly, the standard requires the label not to generate any harmful by-products.  Particular attention is paid to potentially toxic elements. A key part of the European standard is that after 12 weeks, 90% of the material is in pieces smaller than 2mm. If the material passes all the criteria then it can display the compostable logo.

EN13432 applies to industrial composting as opposed to home composting. The difference between home composting and industrial composting are the conditions the process is done under. For example, industrial composting is tested at 58C, home composting is typically around 30C. There are no international standards for home composting. The European EN13432 standard includes the adhesive, label and ink.

Biodegradable Packaging Labels

Biodegradable labels are only worthwhile if you are going to use them on a product that is also biodegradable. Cardboard packaging is the most popular option for those using biodegradable labels because it can also break down naturally over time and be appropriately recycled.

It is important to bear in mind that biodegradable materials shouldn’t be dumped in landfill, as when they are buried, they will not have access to the oxygen and microorganisms needed to break down. Biodegradable labels and packaging should always be recycled appropriately.

What biodegradable labels can we offer?

Biolabels.co.uk specialise in selling cane fibre (bagasse) based biodegradable labels. These are made from 95% sugar cane fibre, hemp and linen. They are biodegradable, compostable and recyclable. The adhesive (S9500) is also biodegradable. We stock a wide range of sizes and shapes, including rectangles, circles, ovals and squares.

Helping Your Business Become More Environmentally Friendly

It is important when using environmentally friendly packaging, that companies do not overlook their labels.  By using eco friendly biodegradable labels, businesses can help to minimise their impact upon the environment.

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