Scientists at the University of Surrey have found that a simple additive to existing adhesives can prevent residue sticking to cardboard, plastic, steel and glass.
These residues can lead to low-quality recycling, blocked water systems and even damage machinery during the recycling process.
But by adding just 0.25% of a chemical called thionolactone, this helps existing labels to be removed ten times faster than before and the adhesive dissolves in water.
This process has been tested on cardboard, plastic, steel and glass and has proved successful on all of them.
University of Surrey senior lecturer of polymer chemistry and fellow of the Surrey Institute for Sustainability Peter Roth said: “While other degradable adhesives exist, there are none which resemble what is currently used industry-wide in their chemical make-up.
“We are proving it is possible to use similar adhesives and show that a simple additive has the potential to increase the quality of recycled materials such as glass and cardboard.
“The next steps would be to look at the commercial viability of this additive, as well as look at the sustainability impact.”