Polypropylene Labels – Everything You Need To Know

Does your company need labels that are capable of withstanding harsh environments and challenging applications?  If the answer to that question is yes, then Polypropylene Labels might be a perfect fit.

Polypropylene labels are popular for companies that need a more durable label as these have the best combination of value and strength compared to other film labels.

These labels offer strength and durability that a common paper label cannot.  Simply put, for some applications, a paper label doesn’t have the durability, longevity or resistance required to meet the requirements of the job.  

Want to learn more about how polypropylene labels could fit into your business?  Listed below is everything you need to know to decide if polypropylene labels are right for you.

What are BOPP Labels?

BOPP stands for biaxially-oriented polypropylene.  The BOPP abbreviation actually breaks down into two components. 

  • BO –  stands for “biaxially-oriented”.  
  • PP –  stands for polypropylene. 

When combined together, it really just means that the polypropylene materials have been stretched flat in two directions.  This process enhances the strength properties of the film to meet the needs of demanding applications. In the end, BOPP and polypropylene labels are essentially the same and are commonly interchangeable terms. The most important attribute is a BOPP film label provides a smooth printing surface to meet the demands of your application.  

  • Tearproof

  • Moisture Resistant

  • Scratch Resistant

  • Lowest Priced Film Label

  • 6 Month – 2 Year Lifespan

  • Excellent Print Quality

  • Low Toxicity

  • Matte Finish

  • Oil Resistant

Advantages of Polypropylene (BOPP) Labels

Companies choose polypropylene labels for applications that require a more durable label.  For example, if you need a label for short-term outdoor use, that might be exposed to water  or needs to withstand significant wear and tear, a polypropylene label might be right for you.  

  • Value – If you are in need of a durable label, BOPP labels offer the best combination of quality and affordability. 
  • Durability – BOPP labels are both tear, weather, and scratch resistant.   They also offer both chemical and oil resistance.
  • Matte & Clear Finishes – BOPP labels can be used for both barcoding (matte finishes) and product labeling for that “no label look”
  • Excellent Printability – Thermal Transfer BOPP labels have a topcoating so the ink and image anchor better to the surface of the film. 

Disadvantages of Polypropylene (BOPP) Labels

While polypropylene labels are great for many applications, they do not work in every application or environment.  Here are some disadvantages of using BOPP labels. 

  • Not Waterproof – BOPP labels are only water resistant, they are not waterproof. 
  • Medium Life Span – the typical lifespan of a BOPP label is 6 months to 2 years.  If your application requires the label to last longer than 2 years, you might consider a polyester or vinyl label. 
  • Price – If you compare the price of BOPP labels to paper labels you might be surprised.  They are typically 2 to 3 times as expensive as their paper counterparts but the total cost of ownership in application needs to be considered when making your material selection.
  • Non Rigid Applications –  BOPP labels are suitable for rigid surface / container applications, not recommended for squeezable applications.

Common Industries Using BOPP Labels

Almost every company has a use for a more durable label.  However, by their very nature, some industries require a stronger label.  Those industries include but are not limited to the following.

  • Horticulture
  • Plant Nurseries
  • Lumberyard
  • Shipping
  • Meat / Poultry
  • Warehouse Labeling
  • Rack Labeling
  • Shelf Marking
  • Retail Labels

Applications

Due to their versatility, the possible applications for BOPP labels are almost limitless.  However, listed below are the most common applications for these types of labels.

  • Electronics
  • Machinery
  • Warehouse Bins
  • Barrels
  • Floors
  • Storage Racks
  • Cable and wire labels
  • Security, property and asset tags
  • Construction tool and equipment labels
  • Pallet, carton and shipping labels
  • Drum and hazard labels
  • Outdoor labels
  • Consumer product labels
  • Retail Shelf Labels
  • Baggage Tags
  • Prime Label Applications
  • Beverage Labels

BOPP Label Finishes

  • White BOPP – is the most common of the BOPP materials.  This matte white finish label is typically used for asset management.  This label comes with a permanent adhesive for most general purpose applications.  These labels are commonly bought blank and then printed on with barcodes.
  • Clear BOPP –  Another popular version of BOPP labels are made with a clear finish.  These BOPP labels can achieve a “no label” look that is great for beverages and window stickers, where transparency is a requirement.  Clear labels are popular for companies that want to display the contents that are inside of the container.  Popular clear BOPP labels include window stickers and beverage labels.
  • Silver (Chrome) & Gold BOPP – Provides a shiny (metallic) look to your labels.  Additionally, they can provide the same durability and resistance of normal BOPP labels.  These labels provide a reflective look that is very popular for consumer products such as candles, wine, and more.
  • Removable BOPP –  A great solution for companies that need their labels to be removed at some point after application.  The adhesive on these labels is less aggressive than your traditional permanent adhesive.

Format – Direct Thermal vs Thermal Transfer

If your company already has a thermal printer, such as a Zebra, Datamax, or Sato you would be a great candidate for thermal polypropylene labels.  

Why go thermal you might ask?  Not only will these thermal BOPP labels produce a high quality barcode but they are much cheaper than durable laser sheet, polyester, or vinyl labels. 

These thermal BOPP labels would come in one of two formats: Direct Thermal (no ribbon) or Thermal Transfer (ribbon required).  

The advantage of Direct Thermal labels is they do not require a ribbon to print.  This means that you only need to inventory one supply item, as opposed to the two required for Thermal Transfer.  Although these Direct Thermal BOPP labels are top coated for additional environmental protection, they are still more likely to scuff compared to their Thermal Transfer counterparts.   

For that reason, we typically recommend customers utilize Thermal Transfer labels. Afterall, if you are looking for a more durable label, thermal transfer provides added durability which is critical so it meets your needs.   Finally, Thermal Transfer BOPP labels do require a special ribbon that has been formulated to print on the label (more on that later).

Wax Resin Ribbon

Thermal transfer film labels require a special wax resin ribbon to print.  These types of ribbons offer excellent print quality and great mechanical resistance. Additionally, wax resin ribbons can be printed with both near-edge and corner-edge print heads.

Wax resin ribbons are recommended for BOPP labels because they print a more durable image than a standard wax ribbon.  In short, the addition of the resin to the ribbon creates a protective barrier over the image that makes it hard to scuff or rub off.

Although these ribbons are more expensive than the basic wax ribbon, they are a recommended for anyone planning to print on BOPP film labels.  If you want to learn more about the different types of thermal ribbons, we have a great guide here. 

Alternatives To BOPP Labels

While polypropylene labels are great for many applications, they do not work for everything.  Application, lifespan, and regulations might dictate that another material, such polyester or vinyl might be required. 

Polyester labels are generally recommended for applications that require a larger lifespan, heat resistance and additional durability.  These labels are usually a good fit for long term outdoor applications as they are waterproof. Finally, polyester labels are commonly printed with laser printers due to their inherent heat resistance.

Vinyl labels, while the most expensive of the three options, will provide the longest lifespan.  These labels are extremely durable, produce high quality print, and are waterproof. These types of labels are also commonly printed with laser printers.

Finally, if your application doesn’t require a long lasting or durable label, paper thermal labels will be just fine.  The standard paper label does great for short term applications such as shipping, case, and pallet identification labels.  These are availble in direct thermal, thermal transfer, and laser sheet labels.