Linerless labels are notable for what they don’t have: wet glue, backing material, and the mess and waste that go with them.

Imagine a no-peel, pressure sensitive label that can be machine-applied from rolls or stacks onto bottles, fresh food packaging, or whatever else glue-backed labels typically are used for.

Now think of the savings from the reduction of weight and thickness in the label stock, and consider the environmental benefits that accrue when there is no difficult-to-recycle label liner to send to the landfill. It’s a remarkable approach that is catching on with brand owners who want their product labeling to be as green as it is efficient.

The linerless concept has been in existence for about 30 years. It differs from pressure sensitive labeling in that instead of being attached to a release liner, the label has a release coating on its facing side that protects it from the adhesive on the underside of the label on top of it in the roll or the stack. In this way, the labels act as their own liners, enabling them be applied at high machine speeds without glue residue or backing scrap to clean up.

Linerless labeling supplies and systems are available from sources such as RR Donnelley, Avery Dennison, and Polykote. In the U.K., one of the leading proponents of the technology is Ravenwood Packaging, which produces a series of linerless label applicators it calls Nobac. The company recently hosted a conference of packaging experts from around the world to chart the future of linerless and other “minimalist” labeling solutions.

In the U.S., pioneering work is being done by NuLabel Technologies, founded in 2009 by three graduates (in that same year) of Brown University. NuLabel has developed a spray-on, water-based adhesive that gives the back side of the label stock the tack it needs to be applied to bottles and other containers on high-speed production lines. Last November, the company partnered with equipment manufacturer Weiler Labeling Systems to introduce what was billed as the first glue-free, liner-free rotary labeling system at Pack Expo 2014.

We think that linerless labels are a story worth sticking to. If you’re supplying them, using them, or developing new solutions for them, please let us know.