Independent Labels

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By: Jeremy Lehrer | August 27, 2012

Getting rid of the nonstick liner could save millions of tons of garbage.

Photo illustration by Tanyon Sturtze

You probably don’t think much about the label on your prescription bottle or the one affixed to your plastic deli container announcing how much potato salad you’ve just bought. But Max Winograd and his team at NuLabel, a startup based in Providence, Rhode Island, do. Addressing a notable yet rarely considered source of waste, they are giving the sticky-back label a sustainable redesign.

Labels—affixed to food packaging, FedEx pouches, and conference attendees (“Hello, My Name Is”)—are generally produced with some kind of backing. That liner has a slippery surface that prevents the label from sticking to it. You peel the backing from the label and then discard it. There are two trillion labels printed each year, and that nonstick liner, coated with silicone, is typically thrown away—to the tune of 1.2 million tons, according to estimates by AWA, a market-research firm.

The NuLabel, billed as a “zero-waste, liner-free, pressure-sensitive label,” doesn’t use any backing whatsoever.

To read the rest of this article, purchase the August 2012 issue of Print, or download a PDF version.