At the risk of sounding OTT, RFID labels can have a hugely positive impact on your brand’s sustainability efforts. The scannable RFID inlays support more sustainable supply chain activities and help limit overproduction and excessive stock movement — you’re earning more from the stock you already have, all while reducing emissions. It’s ironic, then, that the labels themselves aren’t very sustainable at all.
Because of how they’re made and the components they need to work, RFID labels represent a bit of a catch-22 where sustainability is concerned. But we love a challenge, and we’re always working to reduce the environmental impact of our products, so we’ve tested these labels inside and out using a science-based approach to give the best option for sustainably-minded businesses. And we’ve learned a lot in the process!
Thanks to our testing, Checkpoint has become one of the first global label manufacturers to prove our sustainable RFID labels are recyclable as part of the household curbside recycling process. So, we’re sharing everything we learned on our journey to more sustainable RFIDs and the kinds of options available to you as a brand with punchy sustainability goals.
RFID inlays and the tricky issue of sustainability
Sustainability goals differ from company to company, so it pays to know what it looks like for you before starting the journey with your label partner. For example, You could opt for a recycled paper as part of your carbon reduction plan; however, if it is not available locally and has to be imported, then it hasn’t helped you in the slightest compared to a responsibly sourced FSC local paper. The debate around RFID is similar.
RFID technology provides incredible business intel that can prevent overproduction and improve stock management. However, the inlays themselves aren’t always great for the environment — their recyclability previously being unknown. Even with our research findings showing our inlays cause no harm to the recycling process, the materials used to create the labels still cause their own environmental impact.
The best way to come out of a project with RFID labels that meet your sustainability targets is to know which goals are non-negotiable and which you could compromise on (if you really had to). It’s also a good shout to partner with a global labeling expert like us — someone who can collaboratively develop, test, and manufacture your chosen solution in-house and close to needlepoint. It’s far less faff, allows you to customize every aspect of the label, and could keep shipping to a minimum.
4 ways our RFID labels can help you hit your sustainability goals
By now, you should have some idea how tricky sustainable labeling is when you bring RFID into play. Luckily (and unlike other suppliers) we design and manufacture all our own inlays and labels, so we’re free to test, tinker, and tweak our RFIDs as much as we want. So, that’s what we do!
Every new learning or failed experiment is logged and used to help our clients. Sustainability is a journey and every new learning or failed experiment is logged and used to help our clients, however, these four key points will help you take another step in the right direction.
1) Recyclable at curbside (yep, we’ve cracked it!)
As a sustainability conscious brand, you want to tell your customers (without a shadow of a doubt) that you use recyclable labels. And you can’t do that if your label partner is lagging behind the times where sustainability innovations are concerned.
We partnered with PTS to conduct a ton of independent technical tests to verify the ‘recyclability’ of our labels. The Germany-based research consultancy has over 70 years of experience researching fiber-based solutions, so you know they're not playing.
All our labels achieved an excellent overall recyclability rate of 94% and are safely within the current regulations for standard curbside recycling processes. That means your customers can throw a Checkpoint RFID label into the household recycling bin safe in the knowledge that it’s not going to do any harm or cause problems during the recycling process.
Get in touch for the full PTS report
2) Materials with a lower carbon footprint
You may not know it, but the materials used in RFID are the largest contributor to the inlay’s carbon footprint. So, we went in for the full shebang and scientifically tested inlay materials. We went deep.
Most inlays are made with a PET-based (Polyethylene Terephthalate) laminate layer, which is the most common plastic for packaging and RFID labeling. On that logic, the solution looks easy — simply swap to recycled PET and get more sustainable RFID inlays. But our tests say otherwise…
The carbon footprint for recycled PET is actually higher due to availability and the cost of shipping to manufacturing sites. Our inlays use only 5% virgin PET, which we found to be the perfect ratio for optimum performance and reliability. Better yet, it’s still well within the guidelines for curbside recycling initiatives.
We’ve also tested using paper inlays to see if those are a better option. Surprisingly, the results were pretty negligible compared to PET, especially when you look at the performance pros and cons overall.
3) Owning the design and manufacturing process
It’s no good committing to designing and testing more sustainable RFID options if you’re just shipping bits and pieces worldwide as part of the process. It’ll send your carbon footprint through the roof and makes for an agonizingly complex and drawn-out process. So, skip it altogether and work with a label partner who’s an RFID expert and can bring the party to you.
Here at Checkpoint, we design and manufacture everything but the chip. This allows us to convert and embed our inlays into your labels close to your needlepoint. It’s one of the perks of having a global presence! We’ll work with you to design, develop, and test RFID inlays and labels that align with your sustainability targets.
We test all the inlays and labels we make before we ship them, to ensure you only receive labels that meet our high standards. When you factor this into our other processes, you end up with the best solutions for each job without tons of waiting around or unnecessary shipping. Anything you want to do, we'll find a way to make it happen (or get you as close as possible).
4) Size matters
If you’re serious about reducing the impact of your inlays, we recommend focusing on the RFID chip and the overall size of the antenna. In our experience, this is way more impactful than focusing on PET. And that's why we do everything in-house — we’ve got a large portfolio of RFID inlays and chip options from different suppliers, so you’ve always got options.
See our labels and inlays
So, why share all the research and learnings, even when we don’t have all the answers? Because you deserve to have all the info upfront before starting the journey. We’re not into greenwashing, and we know there’s much further left to go, and we’re always looking to improve what we do when we consider the life cycle of one of our products. So, this is everything we know…so far.
Are you ready to move even closer to better sustainability in retail? Get in touch with our team and tell us what you need. Our time spent extensively testing RFID solutions, plus our in-house design and manufacturing, means you'll get a more sustainable solution tailored to your needs. Wanna read the full PTS report on our recycled RFID tests? Drop us an email — we’re happy to share!