Today, packaging recyclability is not just a nice-to-have; it is an essential part of sustainable packaging. Governments and organizations are taking action and setting ambitious recycling targets that significantly impact companies. America's Plastic Makers® are committed to creating a circular economy in which 100% of plastics packaging in the U.S. is reused, recycled, or recovered by 2040. The goal aligns with the EPA's first-ever goal of a 50% U.S. national recycling rate by 2030. In 2021, the European Commission adopted the E.U. Action Plan: "Towards a Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil". By 2026, at least 65% (by weight) of all packaging waste must be recycled. By 2031, the share will increase to 70%.

Furthermore, consumers are more conscious of sustainable packaging than ever before, with most consumers willing to pay more for sustainable packaging across end-use areas (2020 McKinsey study).

Discover how to enhance the recycling of your product packaging with the right recyclable packaging materials and adhesive choices.


What is the impact of labels on packaging recyclability?

Your packaging label can play a vital role in enhancing the recyclability of your product packaging, hence playing a critical role in sustainable packaging. The primary packaging component determines the recycling process, and the self-adhesive label should be compatible with that process or removed before recycling.

impact of labels on packaging recyclability
  • If you are aiming to make your packaging recyclability rate as high as possible, using recycling optimized recyclable packaging materials in packaging as well as the label becomes essential.
  • The primary packaging material determines the recycling process. The better the recycling compatibility is between the label and the packaging, the better the recyclability and recycling yield of the entire packaging tends to be.

Your label material and adhesive choices have the power to make a difference and help you to gain competitive advantage by being a forerunner in sustainable packaging.

Find the right sustainable label materials for your product


Typical recyclable packaging materials and label solutions


labeling of PET packaging


  • PP and PE labels with wash-off adhesive

labeling HDPE and PP packaging


  • PP and PE labels with standard adhesives recommended

labeling recommendations for cardboard packaging

Cardboard & paper

  • Standard labels with standard adhesives

labels for glass packaging


  • Standard materials for single-use bottles
  • Wash-off adhesive for reusable bottles

labeling of aluminum packaging


  • Thin plastic labels are recommended in most countries

Recommendations and regulations for recyclable labeling solutions vary based on location.
Don't hesitate to get in touch with our experts for tailored advice.


How does label design affect recyclability?

Improve packaging recyclability by paying attention to the label placement and size.

    • Place the label on a removable part of the packaging, e.g., the lid or closure film of a plastic tray, to enable separate recycling streams.
    • If the label and container are made from different materials, avoid covering the whole container to ease sorting.
    • Recommendations for label size typically vary from ~40-70% of the packaging size.


How to choose a sustainable label material compatible with your packaging recycling stream?

Sustainable packaging is not merely about using recyclable packaging materials. The use of fossil resources, carbon footprint, and plastic reduction play a vital role. Learn how to reduce the carbon footprint of packaging labels with our Label Life service by comparing the environmental impact of your material choices.

Alternatively, contact our experts to receive a tailored recommendation for a sustainable label solution compatible with your packaging recycling stream.

Request a sustainable label material recommendation

example of packaging recyclability

Packaging example:
Mayonnaise PET container

Enable PET recycling with wash-off adhesives

This container is over 90% recyclable – only reduced by the proportion of non-PET components (cap and label)


Recycling process:

  • After the PET bottle is sorted and collected, it is shredded, including the label and cap.
  • Shredded flakes are hot-washed, and both label and cap flakes float to the top.
  • Clean PET flakes sink to the bottom and allow for high-quality recyclate.
  • If the PET bottle is labeled without wash-off adhesive, some label residue will remain, impacting the recycling yield.

Products and services:


Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR)


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