Advancing the Circular Economy

Advancing the Circular Economy

Across our company, we are engineering solutions for advancing the circular economy. We are particularly focused on increasing materials recyclability and using recycled content in our products. 


The Governance Committee of our Board of Directors provides oversight of environmental sustainability strategies. In addition, our full Board engages with business leaders on their sustainability initiatives during its regular review of their business strategies. In July and December 2020, our board held strategy sessions focused on environmental sustainability and our innovation efforts addressing the increasing demand for sustainable products. 

In 2020 we launched two strategic innovation platforms within our LGM business: “Reduce and Eliminate” and “Circularity.” Each platform has a senior leader as its champion. Through these platforms, we are embedding thinking and innovation related to circularity and materials reduction in more parts of our business. 


Several of our 2025 and 2030 sustainability goals are aimed at advancing the circular economy. 

2025 Targets

  • Ensure that 70% of our products and solutions conform to, or enable end products to conform to, our environmental and social guiding principles.

2030 Targets
Retail Branding and Information Solutions

  • 100% of products within our Core Product Categories will meet our third-party verified Sustainable Advantage standards.

Label and Graphic Materials

  • 100% of Core Film and Paper Product Categories will contain recycled or renewable content. All of our regions will have labels that enable circularity of plastics.
  • Continued investment and industry collaboration to provide the industry with recycling outlets globally.
  • Expand the adoption of Intelligent Labeling to enable our industries to communicate data, reduce costs and waste, and create smarter recycling processes.


Innovation is one of our core values and is critical to our efforts to advance the circular economy, improve business performance, and reduce the environmental impact of our products and operations. Our business is built on research and development and expanding the boundaries of what’s possible. 

During 2020, innovation was a priority of our Board and senior management team. We continued to invest in innovation platforms focused on enabling circularity and on eliminating waste. For example, our “Reduce and Eliminate” platform is investigating solutions to eliminate label liner from our pressure-sensitive label products. In 2020, we also assessed the risks of investing in disruptive technologies that could help us achieve circularity. As the heart of our research and development programs, our Centers of Technology and Innovation and Customer Design and Innovation provide state-of-the-art facilities to drive collaboration, creativity, and product development. They are strategically located around the globe to advance innovation and develop solutions for our customers. 


EcoDesign is a multi-disciplinary and criteria-based process to develop products that will have positive social, environmental, and financial impact. We’re currently piloting it in facilities in Europe, with the aim of implementing it across our entire enterprise. EcoDesign methodology provides guidelines for the entire development process, from ideation to implementation, to ensure that each successive generation of product is more sustainable than the last. We also use EcoDesign to scrutinize the use of chemicals in our products more strictly than what is required by law (e.g., REACH). We are working to expand our usage of EcoDesign across our enterprise. 

Sustainable Advantage

Our Avery Dennison Sustainable Advantage™ portfolio contains hundreds of products that help our customers and their end-users reduce materials consumption, shrink their environmental footprint, and support safety, fairness, and human rights. Sustainable Advantage products include labels made with paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, adhesives that make plastic bottles more recyclable, and apparel labels made from renewable resources in factories that meet stringent standards for worker safety and health. Our Sustainable Advantage products align with our sustainability goals and principles, while also helping our customers meet their goals, satisfy consumer demand, and stay ahead of regulations.

For a product to qualify for the Avery Dennison Sustainable Advantage™ Portfolio, at least one of its components must meet at least one of the three sustainability standards:

  • Responsible Sourcing: A specific amount of the content is verified to come from sustainably sourced materials.
  • Reduction of Materials: The component offers comparable or superior performance using fewer materials.
  • Recycle: A specific amount of the content is recyclable, made of recycled content, or enables recycling.

We apply  concrete, measurable criteria to ensure that products meet these standards. 

Intelligent Labels

Intelligent labels or 'smart labels'—labels inlaid with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) or other technology—are changing how consumers shop and engage with brands and how companies manage supply chains and protect products. As the world's largest UHF RFID partner, we’re at the forefront of this transformation. Our intelligent label products  have enormous potential to enable the circular use of products and materials by improving the tracing of items across their lifecycle. 

We also promote circularity with our intelligent labels through the way that we make them. We take a multifaceted approach, reducing materials in our products and operations where we can, using materials with recycled content where possible, and designing product components that are circular in nature that can be recycled or reused. We define recyclability by looking beyond our own products and considering the products they’ll become part of. We design our intelligent labels with their end uses in mind, ensuring that they won’t stand in the way of recycling.  

What’s more, in choosing our partnerships and collaborations, we prioritize brands creating products that are reusable and refillable or encouraging recycling among consumers. As we further our development of intelligent labels, we also want to promote recycling around the world by making our products an enabling technology for smart recycling bins and better collection and sorting. 

Collaborating for greater impact

We partner with organizations committed to advancing the circular economy. We are members of the Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (CB2) consortium, a National Science Foundation Industry & University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) that focuses on developing high-value biobased products from agricultural and forestry feedstocks. Through the Center, we have access to leading research and development and to technologies developed by the Center. In 2019, we joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy 100 (CE100) network. The CE100 network includes leading and influential organizations, innovators, investors, businesses and governments all working to lead the transition to a circular economy. 

We’re also expanding circulairity by collaborating with other brands. In 2021, we launched a partnership with Los Angeles-based garment recycler Ambercycle in which digital care labels from our RBIS business are attached to Ambecycle’s garments. The labels provide information about a garment’s origins and materials, along with care instructions and more, all via a QR code. When the garment’s owner is ready to dispose of it, a quick snap of the QR code links to instructions for returning the garment  to Ambercycle, where it will be recycled into a new textile.

Reducing Operational Waste 

We are also incorporating circular economy principles in our operations as we reduce waste, divert waste from landfills, and improve materials use efficiency. Each of our business units has developed initiatives to reduce waste and return materials to our value chain. You can learn more about our waste management practices in our section on Waste

Promoting Circularity With Our Materials

The materials we use to make our products can promote circularity throughout our value chain. As with waste reduction, each of our business units has developed initiatives to use more recycled content and returnable materials in their products. You can learn more about our sustainable sourcing in our section on Materials Management.

Increasing the Recycling of Used Label Materials

Tons of used label liners and matrix are sent to landfills every year. In 2021, we set out to change the habits of brands and packagers by introducing AD Circular, a comprehensive program providing recycling of used label materials, in places where we operate around the world. Through the program, companies can use an online web application to schedule pickup and transportation of used label materials to one of our recycling partners, at a cost comparable to landfilling or incineration. The web app also provides useful data in the form of regularly updated analytics and certificates on the amount of recycled liner material, the amount of CO2 emissions users have avoided as a result, and more.

AD Circular is currently operational in China and eight countries in Europe (France, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and the United Kingdom). We plan to expand it further in 2021 and 2022.


Apparel Solutions

Turning Manufacturing Waste into New Products

We’re exploring ways to minimize our manufacturing waste by using it to create new products. We started by looking for ways to reuse waste from our textile processing. We began with two questions: Which of our manufacturing materials is most suitable for regeneration? And which is common to all our woven production? The answer was selvages—the edges of fabric trimmed off during production. We call the resulting product Albert YarnTM. It’s 100% polyester, with a natural touch and feel. Best of all, it successfully repurposes textile waste as a new resource. Production of the Albert Yarn raw material involves no chemical processes, and since it’s made from pre-consumer production waste, its manufacture requires no fossil materials and 72% less water and 15% less energy than comparable conventional yarn.

Label and Packaging Materials

Leading our industry toward the elimination of label waste

In 2020, we joined other leading members of the pressure-sensitive label industry in announcing the creation of the Circular Economy for Labels consortium (CELAB). With just 52% of matrix and liner waste recycled globally, CELAB is catalyzing a unified effort to accelerate recycling among label users. 

Our participation in CELAB reflects our strategic commitment to support programs and companies that enable the collection and recycling of matrix and liner waste. Another example: Avery Dennison Brazil is working with POLPEL, a company dedicated to the treatment of hard-to-recycle paper, to give a second life to paper liner waste. Through the program, liner is collected from our label and packaging materials plant in Brazil, recycled into pulp, and made into paper towels used in the plant. The process repurposes nearly four tons of paper each year.


Introducing, which we launched in 2021, is a digital platform that unlocks the power of connected products by assigning unique digital IDs to everyday items. It provides unparalleled end-to-end transparency by tracking, storing, and managing all the events associated with an item, from source to consumer and beyond. We designed in part to increase the traceability of packages and products across their lifecycles so that more of them can be reused or recycled.