Adhesives used in packaging have always posed a problem for recycling. The glue applied to self adhesive labels cannot be recycled, even though the paper itself can be. There has to be a way where the adhesive on the label can be recycled and prevent the contamination of recycled paper. We owe this solution to stamps and the U.S. Postal Service!
These adhesives are recycling compatible (RCA in English) and were developed because stamps were a problem during the recycling process. Tests were developed to find “pressure sensitive” adhesives which can be recycled or benign for the environment (EBA in English). Following these discoveries, the applications for “pressure sensitive” labels proved to be numerous, and this lucky find brought about by the stamps in general could have important consequences on the recycling of paper. It is all thanks to USPS which took the problem as a serious one.
Unfortunately, even if everyone agrees that these adhesives should be widely used throughout the industry, it is simply not the case. This type of RCA or EBA adhesive is not widely used because of the cost.
Adopting better technology for the benefit of environment is more expensive, and this is what influences people in charge of brands and packaging, in avoiding these solutions.
It is good to know that greener alternatives exist evolving over time with new innovations, and should be increasingly given priority over costs. In the meantime, we can thank USPS for the initiative!