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Plastic Free Kitchens Don’t Need Plastic Jar Labels

I’d like to indulge in a little off-topic post on plastic free kitchens and the associated Instagram accounts that use them for publicity and likes.

If you follow any zero waste accounts on Instagram, you’ll probably have seen images like this:

Although usually the shots include a lot more glass containers.

(Photographer unknown. I’ve not credited this picture  because I found the photo on Pinterest without a credit, and the original source returns a 404, so I’m not sure who owns it. Happy to correct or remove if anyone knows.)

Plastic free kitchens look marvellous on Instagram when everything is labelled up neatly with an embossed label maker, as you see here.

I’m just wondering how the plastic label maker, with its plastic tape and plastic packaging, earned the honour of appearing in every single f*cking plastic free kitchen photo I ever see.

What is Embossing Tape?

There are lots of different types of embossing tape for different machines, although there’s a brand beginning with D that’s arguably the best known example.

The machines made by the brand beginning with D take hard plastic tape wrapped around a plastic cassette. It comes in a plastic packet.

So how much waste is generated?

There are the labels themselves – hard plastic (unspecified type, I’m still researching it), the backing paper – plastic again, and the shards of hard plastic that come off the roll to help you peel the backing off.

Yes, the creation of little tiny pieces of waste plastic is literally part of the design on some handheld manual embossers.

That’s before you get to the real problem here: labels on jars wash off. So many (most?) of these hard plastic labels will disappear from the supposed plastic-free kitchen and probably disappear down the drain, or get chopped up into tiny fragments when they go through garbage disposal units.

Paper Labels Please!

Recently, I looked around for some paper tape to pack orders. I quickly found some suitable narrow paper tape that has natural adhesive, making it both compostable and recyclable.

To label jars, I just stick a bit of this tape across the jar and write on it.



I’m hardly a homemaking genius, folks, it just seems to me that this is genuinely a plastic free solution.

I would bloody love to have an excuse to use a plastic label maker for this task. I had one when I was younger. Aesthetically, there is nothing that comes close. But how can you justify throwing all of your plastic away, and then labelling your reusable containers with smaller bits of plastic?

This is a niche concern, I admit, but could I appeal to the sensible side of the internet not to use small plastic labels in this way? There are tons of alternatives! Besides, the best course of action is always to reuse the containers you have already  even if they are ugly plastic bottles, and not gleaming glass ones.

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