At Labelexpo Europe, FINAT (Europe’s leading trade association for the self-adhesive labelling and adjacent narrow web converting industry), and TLMI (the premier association for the label and package printing industry in North America) presented the first results of their joint Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) project for the self-adhesive label industry. The project, executed by LCA authority PRé Consultants BV, will provide a common understanding of LCA and the environmental hotspots within the self-adhesive label industry, as well as create a harmonized sector approach for LCA. “FINAT and TLMI recognize the need for guidance for our industry as customer demand for sustainability continues to grow,” commented FINAT President Thomas Hagmaier.
Calvin Frost, TLMI Environmental Committee Chairman, added: “One of the reasons harmonization is so important from a global perspective is that we are all on the same page and we don’t have China doing one thing, Europe another, and North America something else. All the disciplines were involved in this work: the ink industry, the material OEMs, the adhesive sector and the converters themselves. We had task forces from FINAT and TLMI working together. This is the first time we have done a joint project of this size, funded by these two prominent label associations. I think it’s marvellous and demonstrates how we can collectively work together for the greater good of the industry.”
Life Cycle Assessment, a growing customer demand
In recent years, there has been a growing demand for more sustainable labelling products driven by requests from governments, global brand owners and consumer groups. As a result, a growing number of companies in the labelling industry have created transparency on the environmental impact of their products using LCA. These developments have resulted in various in-house tools and methodologies within the labelling sector. However, without a standard and overall sector approach, there is a risk of conflicting messages to customers and suppliers. For this reason, FINAT and TLMI have taken the lead to create a joint LCA guidance document to ensure a level playing field, satisfy stakeholder demands and reduce the work burden of the industry.
The LCA guidance document will provide:
a common understanding of LCA and the hotspots within the industry, illustrated with case studies;
insights in the different standards available and how these relate to the harmonized LCA approach;
guidance and training on the LCA methodology;
a level playing-field, making LCA also accessible for SMEs in the sector.
The first key findings
The first step of the LCA project, the state of the practice review, shows that although only 14% of the respondents to a FINAT and TLMI member survey currently use LCA to measure the environmental impact of their products while 62% plan to use LCA in the future. Transparency on environmental performance, product development and marketing are the most important planned uses.
Two detailed case studies, one for a paper label and the other covering a film label, provide examples of how to conduct an LCA study. They show that in these specific cases the raw materials are responsible for more than 40% of the environmental impact of the self-adhesive labels. Printing and manufacturing of the label as well as transport are other significant factors. Compared to landfilling or incineration, recycling of the liner and matrix waste could reduce the environmental impact of the labels used in the case studies by 10 to 20%.
The final harmonized LCA sector guidance document is expected by end of November for FINAT and TLMI members, followed by webinars in the coming months and a workshop at the FINAT technical seminar in Barcelona to help companies use the methodology.
What is LCA and how can it be used?
LCA is an internationally recognized method to assess the environmental performance of a product or service throughout its complete life cycle, from raw material extraction, through production and use to its end of life. For example when a supplier reports the carbon footprint of his products, he is most likely using LCA as the methodology to calculate its carbon footprint.
Conducting a Life Cycle Assessment according to a harmonized industry approach, ensures a robust basis to monitor major impacts for products; identify opportunities for improvement in environmental performance and provide clear and transparent information to end-customers.
For more information on LCA and the joint TLMI & FINAT LCA project, watch the video where Calvin Frost outlines the purpose of project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7epO0tbNN-k