Author Archive

  • Nano inks could pose huge risks

    Amazing innovations are going on with inks as the graphics industry works to maintain its competiveness and improve environmental impacts. Nano inks are used for printed electronics, sensors and ceramics printing.

    Health risks: Laurel Brunner.

    For a few years now they have been used for commercial and packaging printing, on the basis that they can enhance colour gamut and overall print quality. We know relatively little about the effect of these inks on human health or the environment. One would like to think that impact on health has already been thoroughly researched and tested, but that appears to be the hope rather than the reality.

    The problem is that nano particles are very, very small, so they do not do as normal molecules do. How molecules behave helps us to decide if something, such as an ink recipe, is toxic or not. With nano particles their toxicity depends on physical and chemical properties, including the particle’s crystalline structure, shape, size, purity and its surface electric charge. It also matters how the internal and shell components of the particle are constructed. The combination of all these factors determines how the nano particle behaves, for instance when it enters the bloodstream or is printed or printed and coated onto a barrier surface.

    Nanopigments in inks are therefore a cause for concern. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) recently reported on a new study looking closely at the state of research into nanomaterials. The European Union (EU) Observatory for Nanomaterials (EUON) has published a list of the substances it has identified as nano-sized pigments (77) plus four filler pigments, used to bulk up inks and reduce their cost. The report also identifies “gaps in the current knowledge on the hazard and risk assessment of nano-sized pigments.”

    The report bases its findings on what could be found in various nanomaterials inventories including nano materials listed in the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation, plus data from Belgian, Danish and French government sources. REACH regulates the use of chemicals and how they are produced, with restrictions based their environmental and human health impacts. REACH affects all industries throughout Europe that use chemicals and extends beyond the EU’s borders for goods sold into the region. REACH data is generally considered to be extremely robust and yet the EUON report concludes that “Data for hazard and risk assessment are not available for the vast majority of identified nanopigments”. This is more than worrying and could have a serious impact on existing and new ink technologies, especially those designed for packaging printing.

    The problem of knowing how nanopigmented inks will impact human health is not just a concern for the EU. It has implications for all media markets around the world. The report found that the data that is available is often inconsistent to the point of being contradictory. EUON’s goal was to gather more information about the 81 nano-sized pigments used in the EU, but what they found is a lack of reliable information on toxicology data relating to nano-pigments. In other words we don’t really know if nano pigments are poisonous or not, or how they behave once printed.

    – Laurel Brunner

    This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

  • PIAA’s decade of environmental and sustainability leadership

    Environmental leadership, financial benefits: PIAA

    It’s wonderful to get a response to the Verdigris blogs, especially responses pointing out mistakes. We’ve had a correction relating to the serial rant about how industry associations don’t do enough to support sustainability and the environment, so we would like to set the record straight.

    Our serial rant accuses industry associations of doing too little to encourage awareness of what members can do to improve their sustainability and environmental awareness. The rants apply to printer and publisher associations alike, for instance newspaper industry associations or ones for book publishers. And of course printing and manufacturer associations.

    The Printing Industries Association of Australia (PIAA) is however a welcome exception to the apathy. PIAA set up the nationally recognised Sustainable Green Print (SGP) programme in 2009, and it has grown to become Australia’s best recognised and widest implemented industry sustainability programme. It has been implemented in hundreds of print businesses in Australia and crucially, is required in government procurement for tendering.

    PIAA has based SGP on what the market needs, and association members appreciate it as a valuable benefit, because they are willing to pay for it. Key to the success of SGP and its credibility is a rigorous accreditation scheme. PIAA CEO Andrew Macaulay views this as critical to the programme’s continued success, he says: “Sustainability programmes are only as credible as their minimum standards and the reliability of these being enforced. SGP has topped its class nationally on both counts.”

    Accreditation is even better than setting up guidance for association members. The SGP scheme provides three levels of accreditation for print businesses in Australia and elsewhere. The top level is comparable to requirements for ISO14001 (environmental management systems) and the other two are less demanding to provide a pathway to the top level. Accredited auditors look for scheme compliance based on achieving key deliverables over several months. Companies must also demonstrate monthly that they meet their sustainability targets, and they report annually to maintain their certification.

    PIAA says that the SGP programme is successful because it provides a ‘positive commercial proposition’ for print businesses. They save money through reduced waste and energy expenditure, and SGP helps them increase margins. Clients also appreciate the certification, and SGP certified companies have the edge when tendering for work, especially in government and non-profit sectors. Macaulay says that, “SGP has proven its longevity because it was developed to meet environmental outcomes while remaining relevant to our industry. For print businesses faced with an increasing cost of energy a savvy program like SGP makes a lot of sense.”

    PIAA’s programme is open to printers around the world keen to improve their sustainability and get the commercial benefits it delivers. SGP is an excellent example for other industry associations to follow, and PIAA’s work should rightly be celebrated. Hats off to you!

    – Laurel Brunner

    This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

  • Kodak offering data analytics to all

    Kodak has launched an extension to its Prinergy prepress workflow and resource management system, intended to optimise human resources and the use of consumables on press.

    For many years now the graphics industry has benefited from cloud computing, initially with the Software-as-a-Service model pioneered by Agfa, and latterly with a growing range of subscriber based cloud services.

    Adobe started the cloud ball rolling some years ago with CSS subscriptions, and HP has developed the industry’s most ambitious offering with its PrintOS service, available since 2016.

    Most of the leading manufacturers offer cloud based services and support of one sort or another, but the emphasis on data analytics has not been much trumpeted. That could be changing.

    The new service from Kodak not only helps offset print service providers save money, but also improves environmental impacts by helping to improve the management of waste, ink and energy usage.

    It is based on continual analysis of ink and plate usage, and the data is collected via the Prinergy workflow system. Print service providers can use this information to improve planning and consumables purchasing decisions. The idea is to use real life data to anticipate what to buy and how much of it, in line with purchasing and procurement models in other sectors such as hospitality and transport.

    Kodak reckon that the snappily named Decision Analytics Ink & Plate Usage Service will make it easier for companies to produce accurate quotes and to protect margins, since costs will be known, including labour costs. Inventory planning should also be improved, particularly for packaging printers dealing with lots of different inks.

    High level business intelligence is becoming a feature of the wider graphic arts landscape and it will be a tool that allows smaller companies to compete with the bigger players. Companies that lack their own IT department or business intelligence specialists are vulnerable to competitors who have such resources in place and which use data analytics in their cash flow forecasting and inventory management.

    But data analytics are not natural companions for inky fingered traditionalists, which is why smaller printing companies should take heed of Kodak’s announcement and start the conversation. Partnering with a manufacturer who can help make sense of the data and how to work with it, is a lot easier and far cheaper than trying to turn oneself into a data mandarin.

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Laurel Brunner

    The weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

    This is the fourth part of a series of blogs suggesting ideas for topics addressed in environmental policy statements. Industry associations serving the needs of journalists, illustrators, designers, authors, publishers, printers and so on are largely passive when it comes to improving environmental impacts. In the previous blogs we’ve considered the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, emissions controls and management and waste handling. But how about materials usage and considering what’s required to produce a given print product and its recycling?

    In the newspaper business, which uses newsprint, this is an easy consideration because most newsprint is made from recycled papers. Paper and board recycling should be a no-brainer for any industry association’s mission statement. Another material to consider would be the printing plates, for instance used aluminium or flexo plates. Aluminium plates are a ready source of income for printing companies across the industry, since they can be sold for recycling.

    But recycling the photopolymer used to make flexo plates used in newspaper printing, packaging and other applications is a little trickier, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. Some manufacturers, such as Flint Group and DuPont offer a recycling service, but you have to pay for it and the waste is generally incinerated rather than being reprocessed into something useful. Far better is to find ways of reusing the material, for instance as chippings to cover horse arenas and playing fields, or as a building material. The trick is to find and work with organisations that can use the used flexo plates without reprocessing them back into their component materials or burning them. This is another opportunity for industry associations to make recommendations or set up partnerships with companies who can build suitable recycling supply chains.

    The English have a saying that “where there’s muck there’s brass”, meaning that waste (the muck) is a source of revenue (the brass). Printing plates are already earning their users and manufacturers money through recycling. Innovation and entrepreneurialism can take ideas for reusing plate materials in other ways, to use them in other viable new businesses, based on improving environmental impact and profit. Invention starts with little, tiny things, so maybe printing and publishing industry policy statements will help create small germs of opportunity. Industry associations are ideally placed to kick start new ideas for reducing environmental impact through improved waste handling, from paper to plates. But it takes awareness of the problem before ways of solving it can be worked out.

     

    – Laurel Brunner

    This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

  • Big brands target packaging waste

    When big brands start taking action, you know it’s serious. IKEA and Starbucks recently announced their intentions to do away with plastic straws and this could mark the start of some altogether bolder initiatives. Both companies want to be seen to be doing something about the plastics pollution problem.

    ‘The straws are only the start’: Sustainability consultant Laurel Brunner, MD Digital Dots.

    Starbucks’ goal is to replace one billion plastic straws with compostable alternatives by 2020. The company has 28,000 outlets around the world and plans to introduce straws made from paper and compostable materials to replace the plastic ones. It is also developing a recyclable lid as part of a $10 million investment that includes development of a sustainable cup. Starbucks has also experimented with charging a premium for its cups, either to pay for the recycling or because it can get away with it amongst its hipster customers who want to feel better about using single-use materials. A trial has been running in London for a few months and is expected to be rolled out to another 950 locations.

    Starbucks’ new straws will be available in the US first and then Europe starting with France, the Netherlands and the UK. For printers, this may not mean much, but it is unlikely that Starbucks’ interest in sustainability improvements will be limited to straws. Producers of packaging and other forms of print should be ready to demonstrate their sustainability, in order to support Starbucks’ growing range of environmental objectives.

    IKEA has an altogether more ambitious set of goals but is treading a similar route to Starbucks. IKEA has announced that its stores in the UK and Ireland will stop providing single use plastic straws. The company expects all stores to follow suit by 2020. Companies providing print services to IKEA should be aware that, as with Starbucks, there is more to this than just dumping plastic straws.

    IKEA’s incredibly ambitious People and Planet Positive initiative incorporates all aspects of IKEA’s business, including its suppliers and customers. The goal is “to transform the IKEA business, the industries in the IKEA value chain and life at home for people all across the world” by balancing environmental protection with economic growth through a new business plan. The company is taking a leadership position with customers and suppliers, using its bulk to really push for change.

    IKEA’s goals are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, so this isn’t just about print and packaging, but about helping get people out of poverty and living decent lives. Unfortunately, in all the lofty rhetoric, there isn’t much about managing packaging so that less of it’s wasted, or improving its carbon footprint. Is this another example of the invisibility of print, or of something that brands overlook because it’s too difficult to fix? Maybe it’s up to graphics industry professionals to take a stronger position on this, particularly large manufacturers. They should be reaching out to major brands to co-create solutions to the packaging waste problem. The straws are only the start.

    – Laurel Brunner

    This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

     

  • Environment ‘not a cool topic’ for business

    At the recent DSCOOP in Vienna (pictured), a chat-fest for users of HP Indigo technologies, HP and partner conversations were many. Participants were keen and even passionate. to share, confident that they were in the right environment for doing so. It’s not as if people forgot that they were amongst potential competitors, but there was a fantastic atmosphere of sharing and learning. It was really quite uplifting, but it was also clear that too few players in the graphics industry have the confidence to talk about sustainability with a straight face. It’s almost as if the environment is not a cool topic for serious business people.

    “Think of ignorance as an opportunity’: Laurel Brunner, sustainability consultant & MD Digital Dots. 

    This really must change, because print service providers are the front line when it comes to correcting the uninformed view that print is bad for the environment. That’s the easy part. Far more intractable is the problem that too many graphics professionals are reluctant to talk about sustainability because they aren’t equipped for the conversation.

    This isn’t surprising because people tend not to see environmental protection as their problem. Worse, people don’t want to sound like tree-hugging hippies, so they are reluctant to talk about sustainability. Egos aside, the conversation is hard because the language is unfamiliar and the references for the environmental vocabulary mostly obscure. How many print service providers are comfortable with a conversation about the carbon footprint of a particular print job? Not many. How many will be able to respond to questions about ISO standards relevant for the graphics industry in general and environmental impact in particularly? Even fewer.

    But does it matter? Do business owners in the print sector have to face this possibly steep learning curve? Yes, it matters because sustainability is everyone’s responsibility and the future of the graphics industry depends on its environmental accountability as much as any other industry sector. And it matters because there are companies across the globe where the conversations about environmental impact are increasingly the rule, rather than the exception.

    How you start that conversation depends on the clients you work with and your own knowledge. Think of ignorance as an opportunity. Share with customers what you want to achieve with them, and take it from there. As painful as it might be, try to read about sustainability in the graphics business, the standards you can use and the sustainability policies of big brand owners such as Unilever, Diageo, IKEA and H&M. It’s not a difficult conversation to have, but talking sustainability does require you to have something to say and the confidence to say it. Otherwise the conversations will happen without you.

    – Laurel Brunner

    This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

     

     

  • Making textile printing more sustainable

    EFI at FESPA.

    The history of textile printing is a history of innovation, from transferring colours to substrates with carved woodblocks to digitally printed fabrics. In between such bespoke options are a slew of industrial processes that produce all manner of textiles from linens and curtains through to couture garments and t-shirts. The reversion to technologies that allow us to have custom clothes and interiors is creating all sorts of opportunities for new businesses, mostly driven by e-commerce.

    Digital press and colorant innovations are starting to seriously disrupt the textile business. This is a good thing because conventional textile production is a seriously resource intensive manufacturing process. FESPA research suggests that this market is worth $165 billion. Over 30 billion square metres of textiles are printed worldwide, most of it in China and India unsurprisingly. As populations grow and incomes rise, we can expect more and more textile printing opportunities. This is why graphics industry manufacturers are so keen to get into the sector.

    Textile printing was an obvious trend at the recent FESPA show in Berlin. EFI has had its eye on this sector for a number of years, and through its purchase of Reggiani some years ago has over 60% of the direct to garment and apparel market. Around 60% of this is garments with interiors (furnishings) and industrial textile printing accounting for the balance. At FESPA the company introduced a textile pigment ink technology for direct to textile printing.

    The new process involves inline polymerisation and uses less water and energy to produce a print, which it does very quickly. The printed fabrics need no washing or steaming and EFI claims that the process works on a wide range of fibres.

    We can expect more such innovations in the sector as the market for bespoke textiles and clothes expands. HP has its sights on the textile printing opportunity and Mimaki is well established in this part of the market.

    Whether we should expect the printing community to embrace this technology or whether it will be the fashion industry that gets there first, it’s too early to say. Epson has seen the design community embrace inhouse production. And the shift towards ever faster fashion suggests there may be opportunities for digital press manufacturers to capture a whole new market, one that operates far from conventional print.

    – Laurel Brunner

    The Verdigris project is an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. It provides a weekly commentary to help printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. 

    Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa GraphicsEFIEpson, FespaHPKodakKornit, RicohSpindrift, Splash PRUnity Publishing and Xeikon.

     

  • Water based inks “corrosive” in testing

    Imagination, ideas and technological innovation are what progress is all about. We care about what we understand, what we know, so we generally focus only on what directly impacts us. It is time for this narrow view to change. When it comes to graphics industry inventions that reduce impacts on the environment, we must start thinking bigger as well as thinking different. New technologies for reducing environmental impact cannot be considered in isolation. What improves a carbon footprint in one way might make it much worse in another.

    This is why it is so important to consider all aspects of a machine or system’s performance when investing. In the printing business, it is particularly urgent. A press for instance may use water based inks which are considered to be less environmentally hostile than solvent based ones. But if those inks require more energy to dry, they may not be such an improvement after all.

    Water based inks may also have a negative effect on the press itself. A large packaging provider in Scandinavia has run extensive tests and found that water can be corrosive to metals in the press. Tests found that excess copper and other metals were transferred to the cleaning materials, which did not happen with solvent based inks. The conclusion was that “water attacks the press in a way that solvents do not”. This does not mean that we should abandon water based inks in favour of solvents. But it illustrates the need for more understanding of what’s going on. We need far more comprehensive evaluations of the environmental impacts of technological advances.

    Balance is very hard to strike if we are to manage environmental impacts effectively. It can only be established on the basis of verifiable, consistent, comprehensive and repeatable data, so much more investment is needed into data collection and analyses. We must not make claims about environmental friendliness on the basis of a single and isolated data set, as this amounts to the ultimate in greenwashing. The graphics industry has some tools available to it for data collection, but not enough. We should be looking more closely at all parts of graphics production, from prepress through to distribution, so that the industry can develop datasets to confirm its sustainability claims.

    This requires all manufacturers of machinery, software, substrates and consumables to take a much broader view of sustainability. The big players have equally big responsibilities. We need lifecycle thinking, starting with raw materials, manufacturing processes, application, use and end of life. Fresh approaches to recycling, especially by the sclerotic paper industry would also help a great deal.

    The scale of sustainability concerns facing graphics professionals are huge. But with a more holistic approach to environmental thinking, the long-term future of the graphics business can be assured.

    The Verdigris project is an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. It provides a weekly commentary to help printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. 

    Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa GraphicsEFIEpson, FespaHPKodakKornit, RicohSpindrift, Splash PRUnity Publishing and Xeikon.

     

     

  • Australian publishers lead on sustainability

    It should be a normal expectation that companies would choose to police their own sustainability performance. And yet we still cannot manage to do it on any sort of realistic scale. This is dangerous for the graphics industry, because the alternative is regulation by external entities. We already see this in restrictions on chemical usage and the disposal of waste.

    However, self-regulation can be very successful, especially if it is done on a large scale and in partnership with government. The topic was recently discussed at a meeting of the Global Product Stewardship Council in Australia. The Australian government’s department of the Environment and Energy hosted this forum in order to better understand the various product stewardship and responsibility programmes operating in the country. The idea of this consultation exercise was to help the government to get sufficient information for a review of its Product Stewardship Act, so that it could be updated to be more current.

    The consultation provided practical insights to the Australian government across industries, including publishing. A wide range of speakers contributed, mainly coming down on the side of regulation. A lot of the speakers represented organisations with a vested interest in a rules-based system. If there are laws to abide by, there is an opportunity for providing the services required to ensure legal compliance. Investment in the relevant processes and plant can be more confidently made because the law requires compliance guaranteeing a steady flow of customers and revenues.

    But the idea of regulation for the common good or as a means of creating business opportunities is not universally popular. A group of Australian newspaper and magazine publishers tend to the self-regulatory end of the spectrum. They have been working in partnership with the government for a number of years to avoid it. The National Environmental Sustainability Agreement (NESA) is a voluntary agreement between the Australia’s government, major magazine and newspaper publishers and Norske Skog Australasia, the country’s leading newsprint and magazine paper maker. Norske Skog is also the top processor and user of post-consumer waste newspapers and magazines in Australia. The publishers involved are News Corp Australia, Fairfax Media, Seven West Media, Pacific Magazines, APN News and Media, and Bauer Media Group. Together they are committed to recycle 77% of newspaper products.

    A key principle of this agreement is that no legislation is required and that “Publishers also commit to advancing recycling, purchasing newsprint with recycled content and providing $1,000,000 advertising space to governments to promote recycling. The industry signatories will provide transparent and reliable annual data on the performance of this agreement.”

    NESA started in 1992 and is reviewed every five years. Since it came into force Australia’s recycling rate has risen from 28% to 78%. But over the last five years’ newsprint consumption in Australia has fallen by around 40%, so it is not clear what the NESA will look like if it is renewed after the current agreement expires in 2020. Whatever its future, NESA has set a benchmark for environmental agreements between publishers and governments. Australia is leading the way in its environmental partnerships and its approach deserves a closer look.

    The Verdigris project is an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. It provides a weekly commentary to help printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. 

    Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa GraphicsEFIEpson, FespaHPKodakKornit, RicohSpindrift, Splash PRUnity Publishing and Xeikon.

  • Solvent inks under increasing scrutiny

    The packaging industry is ripe for disruption, especially when it comes to inks. The sector’s in the sights of digital press manufacturers, print service providers and print buyers. And consumers want to feel better about using packaging that cannot easily be recycled. They don’t want to be responsible for generating waste, but if they do so, they want to believe that it won’t hurt the environment. Ink science is moving forwards to help balance and resolve the industry’s various concerns, but it isn’t moving particularly fast.

    Sustainability consultant Laurel Brunner, MD Digital Dots.

    Improving packaging’s recyclability is not an easy problem to solve. Packaging printers serve diverse markets and ink science must meet many challenges, in addition to fulfilling printing speed and drying performance requirements. In the food packaging sector for instance inks must be free of toxins and not affect the flavour of the food. The flavour of chocolate is apparently very vulnerable to ink ingredients, hence the complexity of its packaging. Packaging substrates and inks must be fit for purpose and meet performance expectations. Like the substrates, the inks must not compromise the portability of the package or its printed communications. The inks mustn’t flake or rub off, nor can they be vulnerable to temperature extremes. In some customer applications, it must be possible to freeze and heat the package and its contents. There are also the matters of antimicrobial properties, an ink’s resistance to the effects of ingredients such as grease and acids and to the elements, indoors and out.

    For all of these reasons, solvent inks have been preferred for packaging production but printers are under pressure to shift away from such inks. These inks perform well but they contain a lot of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), compared to water based inks which are considered to be more environmentally benign.

    Printers wanting to work with water based inks face a long wait. Water based inks rarely perform as well on press as solvent based ones. The press has to run more slowly when printing water based inks which are also temperamental on nonabsorbent materials such as films. By definition they contain lots of water so they do not dry easily or quickly compared to their solvent based counterparts. All of these limitations reduce production throughput.

    Those printing companies responsible for producing the bulk of packaging print are under pressure, not least from competing print processes. This includes digital printing technologies, which are increasingly viable alternatives for various packaging applications. What happens next for this sector is up to the ink developers and the direction they take in research and development. Let’s hope the wait for more environmentally friendly options won’t be too long.

    – Laurel Brunner

    The Verdigris project is an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. It provides a weekly commentary to help printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. 

    Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa GraphicsEFIEpson, FespaHPKodakKornit, RicohSpindrift, Splash PRUnity Publishing and Xeikon.

  • NZ printer wins Kodak environmental award

    Southern Colour Print at Turakina Road, Dunedin, NZ.

    Every year Kodak recognises printers around the world for their sustainability progress. To qualify for the Kodak Sonora Plate Green Leaf Award printing companies must use the Kodak Sonora processless plate and manage their businesses in a way that reduces overall environmental impact. In 2017, the fourth year of the prize, there were fourteen winners from all over the world. This is a record number and suggests that the sustainability message is beginning to get through.

    Processless printing plates require no chemical processing and cut the amount of water, energy and waste associated with conventional plates. Kodak is seeing growing demand for its Sonora plates around the world and expects that by 2019 30% of the company’s plate sales will be of processless plates.

    The 2017 Sonora Plate Green Leaf Award winners are: Alcom Printing (US), Mitchell Press Ltd. (Canada), Druckerei Lokay (Germany), School Lane Colour Press (UK), Litotec (Ecuador), Cartocor S.A. (Argentina), Southern Colour Print (New Zealand), Colour King (South Africa), Zühal Ofset (Turkey), ASCON CO., LTD. (Japan), Hongbo Co., Ltd. (China), Golden Cup Printing Co., Ltd. (China), Changsung P&T Co., Ltd. (Korea), and Vivar Printing Sdn Bhd. (Malaysia). All of these companies have introduced measures that improve resource management and energy efficiency in the business.

    Waste management improvements are the most common effort, but firms are doing other things as well. All of them for instance are proactive recyclers to some extent or another and some, such as Cartocar in Argentina ensure that materials are sustainably sourced too. Alcom Printing in the US and Changsung P&T Co in Korea have introduced LED lighting throughout their facilities. Many companies including Ascon in Japan and Golden Cup Printing in China have invested in new equipment to be more energy efficient.

    Kodak Sonora plate.

    These winners are also implementing advanced training and compliance programs to improve overall efficiency and environmental impact. Many were also involved in local sustainability initiatives working with their communities to encourage recycling for instance. Richard Rindo, Kodak’s general manager of worldwide sales for the company’s print systems division, said that “it’s clear that the printing industry’s adoption of sustainable business solutions is not only about good environmental stewardship, it’s about sustaining and growing each printer’s business.”

    The printing industry’s response to charges that it is dirty and inefficient has been to clean up its act and to move to more efficient processes. For most printers, this has been as much about saving the business as it is about saving the planet. However, there is no denying that environmental sustainability and commercial sustainability go hand in hand. Prizes such as Kodak’s Sonora Plate Green Leaf award are a great way to recognise this and to raise awareness of the business case for sustainability.

    – Laurel Brunner

    This article was produced by the Verdigris project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

  • Plastic bans could create opportunities

    First China and now Europe are taking big steps to clean up the environment. Their initiatives could create opportunities in the graphics industry, or be another nail in the sector’s coffin. Opportunities are there if brand owners and packaging printers get involved and take the lead in the recycling debate. Banning materials because they are hard to recycle should be a prompt to supply chains to be more innovative in the materials they use and in their recycling. A public awareness campaign as to which plastics can be recycled and how, would be a good start.

    Plastics are part of a larger conversation. China has banned imports of foreign recyclable material as part of its initiative to stop “yang laji” or “foreign trash” coming into China. The ban applies to 24 categories of waste and includes textiles as well as plastics and mixed paper.

    In 2017, 7.3m metric tonnes of waste plastics was shipped to China for use in manufacturing from developed economies including the UK, the EU, the US and Japan. China is the world’s largest manufacturer and it imported more waste for recycling than any other country. China is instead working on its own recycling procedures. The rest of the world can no longer sell recyclates to China and will need to develop new recycling business models. According to China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection,“we found that large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials. This polluted the environment seriously.”

    And the European Union (EU) which has until lately sent 87% of the plastic it collects for recycling to China, is also taking positive steps. The EU wants all plastic in its community to be recyclable or reusable by 2030. Currently only 30% of the 25 million tonnes generated is collected for recycling or incineration. The EU strategy is considering taxes, modernising plastics production and investment of €350 million into research that also covers new approaches to collection. This should be an opportunity for the packaging industry and the companies supplying it to come up with clever ideas for solving quality control and process management problems and to offer technological innovation.

    Taxation requires impact assessments and lengthy discussions about how and who to tax, so nothing will happen overnight. Taxation is essentially a license to avoid good practise, which has been part of the problem all along. But by EU standards 2030 is not so very far away. For Frans Timmermans, the EU’s vice president, the immediate target is single-use plastics and changing peoples’ behaviour. He points out that “single-use plastics that take five seconds to produce, you use it for five minutes and it takes 500 years to break down again”.

    Stuff that takes ages to biodegrade or simply doesn’t biodegrade includes plastic straws, cutlery including stirrers, lids, cups, and various other types of containers and packaging. By 2030 the EU wants 55% of all plastic to be recycled. This will impact graphics technologies such as digital presses and finishing system, which will have to be able to process new materials. Printing companies will have to invest in new technologies if they want to keep brand customers on side. Now is the time to act.

    – Laurel Brunner

    This article was produced by the Verdigris project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

     

     

  • Paper packaging versus plastic 

    There is a lot of chat going around as to the negative impact of plastic packaging on the environment. On the one hand, there’s eight million tonnes of the stuff floating malignant and unopposed in the oceans. And on the other, plastic is a very effective packaging material, especially for keeping food fresh and uncontaminated. It also extends its shelf life and it’s useful for displaying goods and for making carrier bags. Proponents of plastic packaging for bottles, bags, wrappers, tubs and trays will tell you this and they also claim that if some other material, such as metal or paper were used instead of plastic that overall emissions in terms of energy and greenhouse gases, would rise.

    It’s hard to get reliable data that supports this, but it’s true that plastic doesn’t weigh much so it doesn’t add a lot to transport costs and the associated emissions. It’s also durable and reliable so food waste is minimised: think loose versus plastic wrapped grapes. However, it’s also true that many products sold wrapped in plastic don’t need protection: think coconuts and rutabagas (swedes). The benefits of plastic are many, but there is no getting away from the fact that it is overused and that there are alternatives that have less of a negative impact on the environment.

    Paper companies such as Stora Enso and Sappi have made big strides in developing equivalent alternatives based on wood pulp, a renewable resource which also happens to offer an excellent carbon capture method. Trees not only capture carbon but they also consume it via photosynthesis, a process that also produces oxygen as a waste byproduct. Paptic has been developed by a Finnish start-up and it could replace both paper and plastic. This paper-based material is fully recyclable and is compatible with existing packaging lines. Its developers say that it’s “the next generation of paper with all the benefits of paper combined with the critical properties of plastics like heat sealability.”

    In response to such initiatives and to consumer worries, much has been done within the plastic industry to improve the material’s environmental impact. Plastic is mostly made from oil, so it is not easy to recycle. But some plastics can be recycled into new plastics and the rest can be incinerated to generate energy, assuming the stuff is collected in the first place. The recyclability or otherwise of plastic depends on its composition and the complexity of polymers involved: the fewer for instance in bottles, the better. Packages made from mixed ingredients are harder to turn into raw materials for new products.

    In the UK, where households generate 1.7 million tonnes of packaging waste annually, work is being done to reduce waste plastics to their components so that these chemicals can be reused. This work is still in its early stages, and in the meantime plastic continues to pollute the oceans and waterways.

    – Laurel Brunner

    This article was produced by the Verdigris project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

     

  • Measuring power usage of digital printers

    Equipment buyers these days make their investment decisions based on various criteria. They consider the overall capital cost, the cost of finance, monthly service charges, consumables costs, support and space. They will also try to factor in the energy cost of a piece of kit, if that is possible.

    ISO has recently completed a new standard that indeed makes this possible. Jointly authored by FOGRA, the German Research Institute for Media Technologies and Ricoh Europe, one of the graphics industry’s most active sustainability supporters, this document has now been published. ISO 20690 (Graphic technology — Determination of the operating power consumption of digital printing devices) does exactly what it says on the tin. The document simplifies and makes more accurate the process of determining energy usage for digital presses. This will make it far simpler to compare the operating costs of these devices, as well as their overall carbon footprint. The new standard is a natural partner to ISO 16759 (Graphic technology — Quantification and communication for calculating the carbon footprint of print media products) which was developed in the same ISO committee as ISO 20690.

    Calculation of energy usage is commonly made on the basis of a device’s connected load. The connected load is the total load, measured in watts, of components connected to a machine’s electricity supply system. This includes interface panels, on/off lights, onboard computers and so on, and they get included in an energy calculation even if they are not operating. This means that a connected load calculation is not particularly accurate or precise, nor does it make for fair comparisons.

    ISO 20690 takes instead the demand load approach, so that calculations are based on the actual amount of electrical load on an electrical circuit. Using ISO 20690 owners as well as manufacturers can accurately establish the actual energy usage of a digital printer. This makes it much easier to compare the energy footprints of different digital printing devices. Jonny Dörig Product Manager Digital at Gallus Ferd a label and general print provider in Switzerland, has already implemented ISO 20690 and told us that “the new ISO 20690 has… enabled us to simply and quickly capture the energy efficiency of our printing system.”

    ISO 20690 is intended for use in digital printing systems designed to run a single job over a long time period, so it is particularly relevant for book and transactional printing systems. Its requirements are based on calculating the kilowatt hours required to print 1000 A4 sheets, using a standard test sheet. In following the requirements in this document, it is expected that operating costs will be more accurate and that this information will aid investment planning. Also, manufacturers will have benchmark figures against which they can compare the energy usage of new technologies. ISO 20690 will also be handy in geographies such as Germany, where subsidies are available for companies investing in more energy efficient equipment.

    – Laurel Brunner

    This article was produced by the Verdigris project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

  • The price of eco printing

    Publishers tend to know what they want to publish, although they may not know how they want it printed. It’s a step too far to care about the production of a book or magazine, when you’re tearing out your hair to get the content and sales projections right. This is unsurprising: production and printing are someone else’s outsourced problem.

    Laurel Brunner

    Over thirty years ago, technology made it easier for content creators to get their stuff published. The introduction of desktop publishing (DtP) revolutionised the graphics business, leading to widespread disruption and increased awareness of print’s various dirty secrets. The DtP revolution came about because of technology, but also because the prepress and printing industries were ripe for change. Change has continued to characterise the graphics industry ever since, to the point where small publishers such as Unbound, which chooses what to publish using a crowd funding model, are gaining prominence in today’s printing and publishing landscape

    The first Apple Macintosh, a product Steve Jobs notoriously prioritised at the cost of other Apple projects, started the DtP revolution. We were fortunate to have had hands on experience with early Mac models, which smiled engagingly at you from a miniscule screen while booting up. We had had experience with the Xerox Star so the Windows, Ikons, Mouse and Pointing techniques used in the Mac’s graphical user interface were familiar. And having messed about with high end page layout and composition tools, the delights of Aldus PageMaker (the first desktop page layout software) were also relatively familiar. Except that this smiling little box was a machine with a price tag at a fraction of what professional systems cost.

    Adobe’s PostScript page description language unified text and graphics into a single output stream, processing rasters to screen and printer. And thanks to the incorporated Linotype fonts, gorgeous typeset pages could be output. Pages could be viewed on screen and printed with the Apple LaserWriter, the first desktop printer able to print true fonts at 300 dpi. Linotype’s Linotronic 300 was the first typesetter to accept PostScript input for 2400 dpi output, sufficient for film and platemaking. It was the beginning of the end for conventional prepress and publishing. DtP technologies created a process awareness and encouraged everyone to use typography and composition in their communications. They laid the foundation for greater awareness of printing and the negatives associated with volume production and waste.

    Today the conversation between publishers and printers needs to move on. Publishers have the power to determine how green the printing industry can be. As with any service industry printers mostly rely on customers for their direction. Publishers can dictate for instance that they want printing to take place close to distribution points; they can require printers to use technology with reduced energy, water and materials use throughout the print cycle; they can specify the use of recycled paper and vegetable based inks, and choose to commission companies with zero waste to landfill policies. Sustainable print is in the hands of publishers, large and small, if they are willing to accept that such an approach will come at a price, it’s a price worth paying.

    – Laurel Brunner

    This article was produced by the Verdigris project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

     

  • Kodak’s cryptocurrency ‘revolution’

    Great news for one of the graphics industry’s best supporters of environmental sustainability. Kodak has entered into a partnership with Wenn Digital to build and launch an image rights management platform for photographers. Wenn is a blockchain developer and the platform Wenn has developed is called KodakOne. The associated cryptocurrency is KodakCoin, a delightful echo of Kodachrome for the digital age. The launch of KodakOne and KodakCoin confirm Kodak as the industry’s leading photographic company.

    KodakOne is designed specifically for photographers. This image rights management platform is based on a blockchain, a distributed and secure database technology. Content blocks are added to the database, which resides on multiple distributed servers and each block is specifically linked to the preceding block, hence blockchain. Blocks cannot be changed without messing up the link to the preceding and following blocks, so it would take an entire network of participants to corrupt a single block in the chain. This is the data management principle that makes an encrypted digital ledger secure. Blockchain technology is a foundation for secure digital data management systems and KodakOne is such a platform. It is the first of its kind for the graphics industry.

    The KodakOne platform stores new and archived images, so that their use can be monitored and licensed. It uses webcrawler technology to continually monitor the web in search of images registered in its blockchain. When it finds them it confirms licenses and automatically pursues and processes license fees and any copyright infringements. Payments are made in KodakCoin, Kodak’s image specific cryptocurrency. Agencies and photographers can therefore use KodakCoin to monetise their work.

    The most obvious reason for this being good news for print’s sustainability, is that the move has improved Kodak’s finances, which will help it to continue with its sterling environmental work. The company’s shares jumped by well over four hundred percent when KodakOne was announced and have since settled to a three-fold improvement, suggesting much more market confidence in the company. The second reason is that the KodakOne platform is just such a brilliant idea. Not only does it provide copyright protection for photographers, the market where Kodak’s fortunes were originally made. It also solves one of the biggest concerns of the digital age: monetising digital content. With KodakOne, photographers and designers have a platform for their images which ensures that the images are used legally and in an accountable way.

    The KodakOne platform and KodakCoin are currently specific to images and KodakCoins are traded within a tightly controlled environment dedicated to photographers. But the platform and the cryptocurrency could easily expand to include other forms of creative work, such as text. KodakOne could be a foundation for a completely new approach to content commerce in the graphics industry. It’s nothing short of a revolution. Thank you, Kodak!

    – Laurel Brunner

    This article was produced by the Verdigris project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

     

  • Eco-regulators test printed products

    It’s hard enough getting to grips with carbon footprinting, but that is only a small part of the environmental impact calculation. In 2018, regulators and shareholders in mature markets are sharpening their focus on the life-cycle environmental impacts of products. This will impact all parts of the graphics supply chain, from design to procurement. At least it will in markets where political leaders take seriously their environmental responsibilities, such as China and the European Union.

    Taking a more robust approach to life-cycle environmental impacts will not be easy: the process is complicated and unfamiliar so it involves time and effort. It also involves a steep learning curve which will be difficult for many companies operating in the graphics industry. There are tools available to help and large organisations such as HP, Kodak and Ricoh with a history of environmental commitment are already on track. ISO 14025 is one of the tools available. This standard lays out the principles and procedures for developing environmental declaration schemes, whereby data relating to a product and its life-cycle are collected.

    An Environmental Product Declaration (EPDs) is an environmental declaration that meets the requirements of ISO 14025. An EPD confirms that all relevant life-cycle environmental data has been collected in accordance with the requirements set out in the standard. EPDs are voluntary declarations that can be fairly compared because they are based on common requirements, so they can be used in a competitive context. Manufacturers serving the graphics industry can use EPDs to communicate product life-cycle impact information, but also to distinguish their products in the market.

    There will obviously be a cost associated with doing this, not least for training people so that they understand what an EPD is and why it matters. Other costs will be in time and resources to collect the data, which can be considerable for complex products such as printing presses. But these declarations and the associated investment matter: EPDs are independently verified which enhances their commercial and competitive value. When based on the same reference product types, EPDs can be used to directly compare the life-cycle environmental impact of those products. This could be for printing plates, presses, inks or publishing and production systems, although these last two could be a bit of a challenge.

    But for printers and publishers developing EPDs for printed products, the process is relatively simple. An EPD for print would clearly demonstrate that a printed product has a positive life-cycle environmental impact: it can readily be recycled, and you don’t need any energy to use it. This much we know. More important is the development of EPDs for production equipment and that is the challenge for 2018.

    – Laurel Brunner

    This article was produced by the Verdigris project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.