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Stora Enso Releases Paper-Based Sustainable Labels

The forest products company has been leading an effort to introduce paper-based RFID tags; it now has the capacity to sell its five new retail RFID ECO labels to service bureaus at a rate of 500 to 800 million annually.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 05, 2019

Paper and forest products company Stora Enso, located in Helsinki, Finland, is venturing further into RFID technology as part of its intelligent packaging paper and pulp-based solutions, with a portfolio of ECO paper-based tags that are aimed at retailers. The new recyclable labels are being sold for use by brands and retailers in hangtags and price labels. The five new products, available in label format, include the ECO Hanger, Hanger S, Hook, Hook S and Rack; each is designed to be recyclable and to use fewer materials than standard RFID labels.

The first ECO tag was released in November 2018 to enhance the company's intelligent packaging products, according to Juha Maijala, Stora Enso's deputy head of intelligent packaging. The UHF RFID technology results from several years' efforts to build a more environmentally friendly RFID tag that utilizes paper rather than plastic. "We have been working around RFID for 15 years," he says, adding that his firm has provided intelligent packaging solutions that enable brands and retailers to uniquely identify and track packaged goods.

Top: The ECO Hook tag; Bottom: the ECO Hanger tag
Two years ago, Stora Enso opted to begin developing its own tags that could be built into that packaging. Now it is selling the tags as ECO labels for use by brands and retailers, to help them meet customers' demands for sustainability. "We are new entrants to the RFID tag business," Maijala says, "so we're taking a step-by-step approach." To that end, the firm sells the tags directly to service bureaus, which then create the RFID-enabled price label with those ECO tags for the brands.

Traditional RFID tags come with an aluminum- or copper-etched RFID antenna, an integrated circuit and a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) layer on which the chip and antenna can be attached to the tag's paper substrate. That plastic layer provides high strength and flexibility, and it works well with the process of etching antennas. However, it is not recyclable.

What's more, the plastic substrate and antennas do not break down in waste, which means such tags often end up in landfills after they are removed from a product and can have a negative impact on both soil and water. Several RFID companies are striving to offer a tag that won't require the PET layer at all. In the meantime, Stora Enso has built its own portfolio of new labels that the company says are already being used by service bureaus in limited numbers.

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