A lake and forest
By Christine Weber | August 21, 2020

Eco-friendly Supplies Are Gaining Traction Across the World. This is How and Why You Should Use Them in Your Business.

As more sustainable supplies become available, it’s important to learn which ones can make the greatest impact on your printing applications.

Most printing-related supplies are consumables, including labels and RFID inlays. They’re intended to be used in high quantities and usually reach their end-of-life after a single use. With such inherently short lifespans, these consumables present a great environmental opportunity for businesses big and small to reduce, reuse and recycle. However, they can’t do it alone. They don’t design the supplies.

That’s why Zebra has been laser focused lately on introducing more environmentally sustainable labels and RFID inlay options for your desktop, industrial and mobile printing applications. 

Zebra's eco-friendly supplies

We want to make our supplies portfolio – and your business operations – as eco-friendly as possible. Here are some of the ways that small supplies changes can make a huge impact today: 


Want to make your operations more environmentally sustainable? The first step of any business review should be to ensure that you are not disposing of labels unnecessarily due to lack of ability to locate them or disposing of a portion of the label due to change in processes or systems.

One way to reduce waste is to select printers that are compatible with linerless labels and then only stock linerless labels, as available for specific applications. You can justify the investment knowing you’ll be in good company. More businesses are adopting linerless labels because of their environmental and safety advantages. For example, the lack of liner inherently reduces waste. Typically made with silicone, liners cannot be recycled nor burned, so it is important to reduce your usage of lined labels – even if linerless labels aren’t yet available for your application. Liners are also slippery (silicone… again!) and removing them from the workplace consequently reduces slip hazards resulting from accumulating liner piles beneath printers.

As an added benefit, linerless labels like Zebra’s 8000D Linerless Label can be cut to any length to eliminate waste. Also, the increased volume of material per roll reduces shipping volume. Without the liner, the entire roll is available as a label, which means that the physical dimensions and weight of the roll itself are reduced. This subsequently reduces the number of boxes needed for shipping, which helps to reduce packaging waste and the carbon footprint resulting from delivery


When it comes to labels, reuse is not about reusing the label itself but rather the item to which it is affixed.

Barcoded labels are affixed to all sorts of things, including food service bins. Labels affixed to these bins provide valuable information such as ingredients and expiration dates. While the bins themselves are reusable (after sanitation, of course), the labels are not. Label removal can be time-consuming and difficult. Additionally, if labels are not properly removed, they can easily clog drains – and this can be costly. Plus, label remnants and leftover adhesive are not exactly conducive to food safety.

Easily dispersible labels, like the 8000D Dissolvable Label offered by Zebra for U.S. customers, provide a more efficient means to removing disposable labels affixed to reusable items. They are made using a special paper facestock that breaks apart into paper fibers along with an adhesive that dissolves quickly under water. This allows for easy and clean removal without clogging any drains.

One of Zebra’s customers, Chipotle, actually uses a custom dissolvable label on its food prep pans to improve food safety measures in its restaurants. While affixed to the pans, the label provides important information like contents and expiration date. Once the pans are emptied and run through a dishwasher, the labels dissolve in the wash and the pans are clean and ready to be used again.


When it comes to choosing the right label, it is a good idea to take a look at how your labeled items are entering and exiting the market. If labeled items are received by another facility within your business, you can maintain control of the handling or disposal of these items.

If labeled items are ultimately received by consumers via in-store or e-commerce purchases, then you don’t have control over the handling and disposal of labeled items. In this case, it’s a good idea to purchase recyclable labels that have some marking to inform the consumer that the item can be recycled. If there is no space or opportunity to note that a label is recyclable, consider using labels that are created from a recycled material.

Take a bubble mailer for example. Bubble mailers are plastic-based envelopes typically labeled with non-polyethylene labels that must be cut out or peeled off by recipients if they wish to cleanly recycle.

The PolyE 4000D Label offered by Zebra, a direct thermal polyethylene label, allows consumers to easily recycle polyethylene bubble mailers because the label and the envelope are made of the same material.

Another supply Zebra offers to enable businesses to recycle more – and more easily – within printing workflows is the Stora Enso ECO RFID inlay. This inlay uses paper instead of a polyester terephthalate (PET) film, making it recyclable with other fiber-based materials. In turn, there is no negative impact on existing waste streams or recycling processes.


We don’t know what the future holds, but we can predict that phenol-free thermal paper is likely to be one of the supplies that will increase in popularity in the coming months due to recent changes in government regulations.

Phenol, which is used to produce bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS), has been found in countless household products. It has also been used as a common developer for direct thermal paper for many years. 

However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently described phenol as “highly irritating” after acute inhalation or dermal exposure and “quite toxic” via oral exposure. Some countries have taken stronger stances on the chemical and banned it altogether in certain products, like baby bottles in the European Union and Canada. In fact, BPA became restricted in January 2020 and there are signs BPS will also be restricted, with countries such as Switzerland having already banned both. As a result of these changes, it may be time to start looking at what’s next. We have.

All of Zebra’s labels are now BPA-free. In addition, Zebra’s Z-Perform 1000D PF Label is both BPS- and BPA-free and uses alternative developers. These phenol-free labels and receipts are regarded by many to be safer to handle.

The Takeaway

Whether you’re reducing, reusing and/or recycling, every action you take to improve the environmental sustainability of your business adds up. If you’re concerned about the costs that could be incurred by switching to more eco-friendly supplies, consider the financial consequences of not switching. Every reusable container disposed before its time due to a stubborn label, every plumber called for a sink clogged with label remnants and every injury or lawsuit that results from a workplace slip hazard has an impact on your bottom line. Both businesses and consumers play a part in making the right choices for themselves and ultimately the environment, so we encourage you to make the choice to switch to more eco-friendly supplies today.


Editor’s Note:

Interested in learning more about eco-friendly supplies offered by Zebra and its partners? Contact your local sales representative or read more here.

Energy and Utilities, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Warehouse and Distribution, Corporate Social Responsibility, Transportation and Logistics, Retail, Field Operations, Hospitality, Public Sector,
Christine Weber
Christine Weber

In 2006, Christine Weber joined Zebra Technologies to market thermal printing supplies in North America and Latin America.  During her tenure at Zebra, she has brought supplies to life for enterprises. (There is much more to thermal printing supplies than you think!) 

She has deep knowledge of the wide variety of labeling applications across a wide range of enterprises within Retail, Manufacturing, Healthcare and Transportation & Logistics. She is also well-versed in which supplies materials provide the most reliable performance to enable asset intelligence, including facestock, adhesives and ribbons. Along the way, she has driven the marketing of service agreements, managed and professional services, and software in addition to supplies. 

Today, Ms. Weber is a thermal printing supplies expert and strategic partner to Zebra’s Global Supplies Product Management and Marketing Teams, in addition to the North America sales team, driving the development of the annual go-to-market plans to achieve supplies growth globally.

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