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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

The five new labels were built to meet the size and dimensions requirements of retailers, the company reports. The ECO Hanger label measures 2.13 inches by 1.34 inches, with a web width of 60 millimeters (2.4 inches). It is designed as a hangtag or sticker for apparel. The Hanger S is a smaller label, at 1.1 inches by 1.73 inches. The ECO Hook is narrower, is also designed for retailer applications and measures 3.82 inches by 1.06 inches, while the Hook S is aimed at smaller items, such as accessories, cosmetics eyewear and homeware; it measures 1.3 inches by 0.71 inch and I 36 millimeters (1.4 inches) thick. Lastly, the ECO Rack measures 2.83 inches by 0.67 inch for demanding item-level tagging. All five labels leverage NXP Semiconductors' UCODE 8 chip.

"We're pushing ourselves into an existing [RFID] ecosystem, but response has been really good," Maijala says. Growth is there, he adds, and the company has the capacity to create its products to meet those demands in high volume, with capacity at approximately 500 to 800 million tags per year, per production unit.

Historically, Stora Enso has been a renewable materials company that has used forest-based raw materials (wood). "We want to be the sustainable product for the brand owner," Maijala says, enabling companies to purchase the product through the service bureau with which they may have an existing relationship. Stora Enso's service bureau customers are located in North America, the European Union and Asia. The cost is equivalent to existing UHF RFID tags, he says. Although some parts of the manufacturing process could raise the cost of tags, "It's on the same [price] level because we are simplifying the structure of the RFID tag." For instance, Maijala notes, in most cases, tags contains six layers of material, whereas "Ours has only three layers."

Stora Enso declines to indicate what fiber-based materials are being used in the tags, or to reveal the metal in the antenna or the attachment method for the chip and antenna. "We have invested a lot in that development," Maijala states. While the company's customers are the service bureaus, he adds, the firm often knows the brand owners with which a particular service bureau is working and has thus been able to build the labels according to the needs of those brands. "That has helped us grow volume-wise," he says.

Several UHF RFID technology companies are releasing their own tags that are designed to meet sustainability standards, such as being recyclable. Maijala says he welcomes that competition. "The overall sustainable tag portfolio is still so small, we think it's good to see the competition," he states. "It's good that brand owners don't go to a single source." In fact, Maijala says, growth in sustainable product options means a healthier market for greener products. "We expect more and more retailers and brand owners are selecting a sustainable choice."

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