CCL Label Wash Off

Next in our Finalist Interview series for the Sustainability Awards is CCL Label with its WashOff labels for rigid PET bottles. Marika Knorr, head of sustainability and communication at CCL spoke to us about this entry, nominated in the pre-commercialised Climate category.

You’re a finalist in the Sustainability Awards 2023. Congratulations! To start off, could you summarise your entry, in less than 50 words?

Our new label innovation was developed specifically for returnable PET bottle systems and will help boost the circular economy. They are little high-tech wonders – once they hit the washing water in the refilling lines they shrink and pull themselves off the bottle.

Why do you think the judges were impressed with your entry? Tell us about what is innovative about your project and/or about its impact on packaging sustainability.

I think we all know that we need to move from a linear to a circular system for packaging. This is not always easy on industrial scale and needs innovation. The packaging needs to be re-designed so that it can readily be recycled or re-used at the end of life. For bottles, this means that the label and the cap have to be a perfect match.

We envision that many returnable systems will be in PET bottles because of the weight benefits. When they go back to the washing and refilling lines, they need a tailormade label that performs in the conditions of the washing lines…so we developed a completely new label at our beverage hub in Meerane, Germany. We think the precise engineering behind that impressed the judges, and that it very visibly contributes to a circular system for bottles.

When and how do you intend to launch/commercialise this innovation?

We have just about finished the final testing and this was very successful. We are trialling them at larger scale with customers now and they are in available in principle if any brand is interested.

You’re shortlisted for the Climate category. What do you see as the key demands and challenges in relation to reducing the carbon footprint of packaging and packaged goods?

Reducing the carbon footprint of packaging basically means more recycling and the re-use of the recycled material in new packaging. Also, returnable systems make a lot of sense – but these tend to work very locally and need to be scaled up. I think much can be learned from the German PET recycling and deposit scheme. It really worked to drive collection – the basis of recycling and re-use.

Above all it needs to be easy - for consumers to buy in and for people in the packaging, recycling and refilling industry to scale it up. That is exactly what our labels do: they make glass and PET recycling easy because they detach from the bottle automatically in the standard conditions, don’t contaminate the washing water and support efficiency on the filling lines.

What do you think are the main opportunities in this area or what future innovations do you predict in this area?

We predict more development in Design for Recycling. Even if a brand is not willing or able to pay more for a label or sleeve that will support recycling, government regulation will step in at some point. There will be a classification of the packaging on how easy it is to recycle it and that will present a great opportunity to change the packaging system.

Also, we expect more innovation regarding materials that are bio-based (not to be confused with biodegradable). We need to move away from fossil fuels and find renewable sources for our packaging materials where possible, as barrier properties to stop food loss will always be important. This will also contribute to reducing the carbon footprint.

The winners of the Sustainability Awards 2023 will be announced at the Sustainable Packaging Summit, which takes place in Amsterdam on 14-15 November. The Summit mobilises leaders of the FMCG value chain, policymakers, NGOs, recyclers and investors to collaborate, remove barriers and identify opportunities on the road to sustainable transformation.

To learn more or register, visit