Sustainability in adhesive tapes

Adhesive tapes are being analyzed for how the packaging industry can reduce its environmental impact and increase product efficiency and safety throughout the entire supply chain.

Adhesive tapes are often overlooked in the packaging sector, yet they are a key driver of eco-innovation in the packaging industry.

Choosing the right tapes can save resources, materials, and time. They can also enable packaging to be made with more recyclable materials and increase packaging's ability to withstand harsh conditions during transit, reducing product waste and improving resource efficiency. Additionally, having undamaged products leads to higher customer satisfaction.
Currently, there are adhesive options on the market that are made from 50% naturally sourced rubber, which is a more environmentally friendly alternative compared to acrylic or hot melt adhesives made from fossil sources.

Rubber-based adhesive is suitable for many demanding applications with high technical performance requirements, such as low temperatures or high humidity. Thanks to its unique fluid properties, it adheres well even to recycled cardboard boxes (which have high porosity) and other challenging surfaces. Another advantage is that, with natural rubber, a single layer of tape is generally sufficient to achieve the desired bonding strength. This means less material usage and more operational effectiveness. In the case of cardboard boxes, it allows for easy recycling in the same container.
It is worth mentioning that paper-based tapes without silicone are perfect for lightweight to medium-weight boxes. They provide a more natural appearance and are popular where a single-material tape solution is desired. They also offer impressive printing results that, with the right ink, can help enhance brand visibility without harming the environment.

However, for heavier cardboard boxes or more demanding transportation conditions, most paper tapes may not be strong enough. In such cases, if a more sustainable option is desired, we recommend our customers at Circular Packing Solutions to consider a film tape with a high content of renewable raw materials or one that significantly reduces the need for virgin fossil-based raw materials. For example, a tape made with a reprocessed polypropylene film substrate, eliminating the need for virgin fossil-based raw materials by over 99% and reducing its CO2 impact.

Sustainable innovation in the adhesive industry is currently focused on several different areas. For example, on the raw material side, tapes can be manufactured using increasingly environmentally responsible chemical formulations. On the other hand, substrates can also be made from more eco-efficient, recyclable, or circular materials.

It is worth noting that not all paper tapes currently remain in the cardboard recycling stream and are incinerated instead of being recycled at the end of their life cycle. A potential future solution for the end-of-life phase could be pyrolysis: instead of incineration, the tape is converted into oil or liquid gas as a base for new raw materials, thus closing the loop.

The market's major challenges

However, while progress is continuous, the industry also faces many ongoing obstacles. New or revised regulations and initiatives, including the European Green Deal, the Circular Economy Action Plan, the updated Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, the Chemicals Sustainability Strategy, and the SUP Directive, demand more eco-friendly packaging solutions.

Technological innovations in materials must align with real needs. In the case of tape, the box must remain securely closed during transportation to ensure that packaged products reach their destination safely and intact. Before launching eco-friendly alternatives, extensive research and development work and practical testing are required to meet the required technical specifications. Not all tapes in the market meet these specifications, so each particular case must be studied, and the most suitable supplier must be found to meet the specific needs.

Working towards carbon neutrality and biodegradability

One of the main goals of the European Green Deal is to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050 climate-neutral by 20501, and the adhesive industry is supporting this goal in various ways. It is important to find a supplier aligned with sustainability that calculates the product's carbon footprint according to the GHG protocol (Greenhouse Gas Protocol, Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard) to offer a lower carbon footprint than conventional polypropylene tapes.

To go even further, many companies choose to offset all unavoidable CO2 emissions by investing in certified climate protection projects following EN ISO 14001 standards since 1999 and energy certifications according to EN ISO 50001 since 2015. Some argue that this could be considered "greenwashing," but at the moment, there are no new innovations that can replace adhesives.

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