Recycling Siliconised Label Backing Sheets

Being sustainable is at the heart of Little Conkers – as I often say, if I can’t do it sustainably, I just don’t do it.

I stopped using the majority of my recycled adhesive labels, when I realised it just wasn’t feasible to recycle the backing sheets as I had hoped.

The shiny, siliconised backing sheets are technically recyclable, but only really within a specialist context, and it has proved to be something out of my reach. I had hoped it would be possible within a Teracycle box. I now get through a lot of (sustainable, cornstarch-based) glue sticks, as I stick paper as labels to my boxes instead of using adhesive labels, and I can recycle the empty glue sticks in a Terracycle box, along with a whole host of other things that aren’t accepted in our kerbside recycling (pet food pouches, deodorant tubes, etc). But even they don’t accept the laminated label backing sheets.

However, the move to contact-free posting of my items during the pandemic – I put them straight into a parcel post box, rather than going to the Post Office – means I have to use adhesive labels for the postage. This leaves me with hundred (and hundreds) of the label backing sheets to deal with.

Having used the label, first I cut off the half of the sheet that is just paper, and we use that as rough paper within our house, before it is recycled.

Reusing paper as rough note paper

Then I separate the left-over adhesive label material from the backing paper, and that goes in the recycling too. (I say “I” but I literally set up little production lines with my kids to peel this off and make it into huge sticky balls.)

This then leaves me with hundreds (and hundreds) of sheets of the shiny, siliconised backing paper, for which I’m trying to find the best solution. I have a huge pile of this now!

I don’t like to use it as packing paper for my parcels, because that is just passing the problem on to my customers.

I have a vague notion that it might be of use to people who make candles or soap? Because it is sort of non-stick in nature, it could I think be used for separating items. If anyone has a use for it, please do get in touch!

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    1. Yes, there is no doubt the technology exists, also in the UK. You just have to be much larger scale business than I am to be involved. I’m looking forward to it becoming available to small businesses and individuals like me. In the meantime, I was hoping I could donate it to someone who could make use of it, but no luck so far.

  1. I have exactly the same problem too. I make eco-bricks out of all my non-recyclable plastic and I’ve been putting siliconised paper in the eco-bricks. I was wondering whether it would be possible to use them in baking, say for biscuits or something similar. I know you can buy siliconised paper for baking but I don’t know if this is food grade. Maybe we should start a campaign to make all silicon paper food grade so that it can be reused?

    1. Hi Carol,

      Yes, it’s a really problem, isn’t it!

      I’m not sure about eco bricks as I don’t know what would leech out of the backing paper once it starts to degrade. Presumably all papers are not the same either. I certainly would say you shouldn’t be cooking with it, as it will give out unknown chemicals when heated.

      I’ve been pleased that in the last year soft plastics (crisp packets, plastic food wrappings) have become widely recyclable, so I’m hoping the manufacturers involved in producing labels will be looking at following suit. It seems like a significant issue, as I get lots of comments from people like you with the same problem. I’ve got several boxes full of it now, and will have to take the decision to bin some of it soon.

      Many thanks for getting in touch.

  2. Hi there, I want to solve this same problem too. I don’t want to have reams of backing paper left but I cannot find anyone to supply labels with recyclable/biodegradable backing? I then wondered if it was possible to return the silicone covered sheets back to the label manufacturer to be reused? Have you looked into that at all? If yes what was the response? If not I may email some label suppliers to see what they say?

    1. In my particular case, I’m using generic, unbranded labels from a variety of sources, so I don’t have a manufacturer to contact. But this definitely sounds like something worth asking if you buy branded labels, especially if you buy them directly from the manufacturer. Do let me know if you get a response!

  3. I use stamps on the leftover “sticker” paper and add them to my packaging or use the strips as tape. I’m also searching for ideas about the backing– I’m seeing some people may use it to transfer a printed image to wood. You may also be able to use it for a watercolor technique by scribbling with Crayola/other watercolor markers, then spritzing with water and pressing paper down to absorb the color. I also use the backs of the slicky pages as “rough paper” in my office, taking notes that need to be destroyed for privacy sake anyway, like during a phone call. On another blog I saw recently, they were suggesting using them to make envelopes (slick side in, I would think). Ultimately these are ideas for reuse more than disposal. I wonder if they are good campfire starters…

    1. These are great ideas, but nothing that I need to do personally (apart from using all the paper parts for notes, which I already do). I personally wouldn’t use anything of an unknown plastic nature to burn because of potential toxins. I was hoping to reach people who regularly needed to use the siliconised sheets, who’d like them for just the price of postage, also reducing their need to have new siliconised sheets created. Fortunately I’ve now found a supplier where the siliconised part is only under the quarter of the sheet where the postage label is, rather than under the whole top half of it, so that’s a reduction at least!

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