Author Archive

  • Packaging print must go circular: Brunner

    The circular economy is rapidly moving from being the preserve of green activists and investors out into the mainstream. The idea that everything we use should be reused as a new raw material has huge implications for the environment and of course for climate change. But making real changes, the pragmatics of developing circular economy realities, is even more huge and for most of us pretty daunting.

    Circular economy growing: Laurel Brunner.

    Change on such a scale takes big names and big commitments, as well as easy consumer engagement. This makes it fantastic news that Adidas is setting up a system to make it possible for people to return worn out sports shoes to the company. Adidas is setting up a bespoke circular economy whereby worn out shoes are returned to Adidas, pelletised into recyclable plastic and then used as a new raw material. The company will reuse the recycled plastic in the manufacture of new sports shoes. This new initiative builds on Adidas’ existing environmental efforts. Adidas is already using recycled plastics in production: in 2019 it expects to make eleven million pairs of trainers from recovered ocean plastic. Recovering its raw material from discarded old Adidas product instead, takes the company another step closer to improving its environmental footprint.

    As interesting as this is, for graphics professionals a bigger question is what happens to the printed boxes and associated packaging, when the sports shoes are returned to Adidas. Their fate is anyone’s guess, but Adidas appears not to have considered the circularity of printed packaging in their initiative. Ideally the old shoe boxes will be recycled, but there is no guarantee that they won’t end up in landfill or in an incinerator. Adidas and other big brands might want to consider initiatives to better support paper and board recycling, working with third parties to develop new paper-based products. Big brands benefit from high visibility and a ready dialogue with consumers and the media. They have a presence in shopping malls where branded collection bins can be set up, and they are well placed to push local authorities towards more joined up recycling and circular economy related projects.

    Taking a more active role in recycling and circular economies would certainly go down well with consumers. Shoppers want to feel better about their consumption addictions and want to someone else, including big brands, to take responsibility for dealing with environmental impact mitigation. We are already seeing efforts by the likes of H&M and Intertex to encourage clothing recycling in their stores. But what would it take to get a similar commitment for printed matter and packaging?

    – 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.

  • Marking needed on plastics

    Plastic: eco-labelling could help, but is the will there?

    With all the current furore about plastic, the graphics industry can do more when it comes to plastic, such as printing instructions on the package for recycling or composting.

    The enthusiasm for plastics reuse and recycling initiatives is a step in the right direction, but it overlooks the role of consumers. For most people understanding what can and cannot be recycled is difficult, so perhaps the graphics industry can help. Perhaps plastic materials that can be composted should be marked as such, and brand owners could consider expanding efforts to aid guidance.

    Household compost bins are the beginning of packaging degradation, but composting only works if people know which materials they can compost. This information should be communicated, along with the importance of keeping compostable plastics separate from low density polyethylene (LDPE) which has to be processed differently.

    The practicalities are complicated. The established labeling schemes are not widely understood, and plastics made from vegetable matter are often not included in it, except as “other”. Graphics professionals tend to care more about printability, adhesion and migration than they do about recycling, so there isn’t much incentive to learn about plastics recyclability. But it is important.

    Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) has the highest profile and is the most recycled. We are all aware of its polluting possibilities, and that it can be reused and recycled. PET is generally used for single use as it is hard to clean and it can leach materials or get mouldy if it is reused too often. Still volumes of recycled PET are rising; it gets made into new PET bottles or is spun into polyester for turning into clothing, rugs, stuffings and similar products.

    High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is widely considered to be one of the safest and recyclable of plastics. Old milk containers and the like are turned into furniture, building materials and garden furniture. PVC is widely used, from food wrapping to shoes and garden hoses. It cannot be easily recycled or reused so it should be avoided in packaging applications. Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) is the cheapest and most commonly used recyclable plastic but it takes hundreds of years to biodegrade. It isn’t always recyclable which is why some packaging print buyers are looking for alternatives.

    Plastics can be made out of vegetable matter such as potato starch instead of polythene, but such biodegradable polymers cost 20 per cent more than LDPEs. They can be composted but are problematic in the recycling chain, because they must be processed separately. Biodegradable plastics also have variable deinking characteristics which creates another challenge for recycling them. Sooner or later recyclers will have to support environmentally friendly alternatives.

    – 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.

  • Cost and effort preventing eco-labels taking off

    Plastic: eco-labelling could help, but is the will there?

    Calls are being made for a labelling system to distinguish between different types of plastic waste for recycling, but a problem is that ecolabels haven’t really take off, not in the graphics industry and not elsewhere.

    The proposed labelling system would be a reasonable start, that would ensure plastic waste gets routed appropriately, assuming recycling and reprocessing supply chains are in place.

    Ecolabels are not desperately popular in many industrial sectors because they are seen as intrusive and expensive, delivering little benefit. This is of course not the point of an ecolabel, which is intended to confirm compliance to a given set of environmental criteria and to reassure consumers.

    Circular economies are all well and good, but it takes dialogue at many levels, not least between governments. The urgency of dealing with plastic waste was illustrated in a recent report that a small town in Malaysia has become a primary dumping ground for plastic waste. The place is being buried under 17,000 tonnes of the stuff. Some of the plastic is classified as clean and some of it isn’t and has to be processed in some other way. According to the United Nations Environment Programme “In 2015, 47 percent of the plastic waste generated worldwide was plastic packaging waste, half of which came from Asia, with China being the largest culprit. However the USA generates the most plastic packaging waste per person, with Japan and the European Union following.

    A large part of the problem is that there is no real international coordination of ecolabelling schemes which are numerous and designed to operate in specific geographies. Efforts to internationalise labels such as the Nordic Swan which originated in Scandinavia, and Germany’s Blaue Engel have been underway for a while, but don’t seem to get far, at least not in the graphics sector. The alternative is for regulation under the purview of governments. In order to be cross border, it may be time for some sort of international effort to standardise the ecolabels.

    If governments are sincere about supporting circular economies they should be reaching out across geographies to find out what can be done to support local industries and markets within an agreed regulatory system.

    There are many problems with trying to achieve an internationally recognised labelling scheme and environmental compliance, but the United Nations is well-placed to develop one and to get nations to adopt it. Alternatively national governments could start working with industry sectors to develop the basis for an initiative that could be applied globally.

    – 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.

  • Apple taking environmental lead

    100 per cent renewable energy: Apple HQ

    The energy used throughout the Apple business, in 43 countries around the world, is now derived from 100 per cent renewable sources.

    Apple’s energy comes from a mix of wind, solar, biomass and hydro power, much of it installed by Apple. Energy emissions now make up only 1 per cent of Apple’s carbon footprint. Its efforts have apparently prevented 2.1 million tonnes of CO2-e from entering the atmosphere.

    Despite its profound impact on commercial print in the 1980s, and its hardware being used today in virtually every print shop in the world, Apple has not been particularly interested in the graphics business for many years, however it is worthy of attention when it comes to environmental impact reduction. The company is working with its suppliers around the world to encourage more sustainable practices.

    The company’s footprint is falling in manufacturing, which accounts for 77 per cent, as well as facilities, transportation and recycling. At the Apple headquarters in California the company has installed a 17 Megawatt rooftop solar farm, and returns the excess to the grid using a combination of battery storage and a microgrid.

    And Apple has been working with its suppliers on emissions reduction for a number of years, with 23 of them now actively involved in renewable energy projects with the company. These efforts are expected to account for four Gigawatts of clean power worldwide by 2020, which will be about a third of Apple’s current carbon footprint. The group includes Taiyo Inks a relatively new Japanese chemicals company, also developing printing inks.

    Apple is also working to improve recycling, and on average Apple products today use 68 per cent less energy in manufacture and use than they did ten years ago, the company claims. The company has developed a robot for picking apart recycled iPhones, which is all well and good, but maybe they should develop robots for other brands of smartphone too? And maybe Apple could do more locally, for instance to encourage packaging materials and paper recycling, much of which currently ends up in landfill or incinerators. Local initiatives engage consumers far more effectively than remote global efforts. Apple’s relationship with the graphics industry has a long and fertile history. Wouldn’t it be great to see some outreach that processes more materials for recycling, and not just Apple products?

    – 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.

  • Stuff New Zealand wins Kodak Green Leaf

            Environmental progress: Kodak             global Green Leaf competition

    Stuff New Zealand is one of the global winners of the Kodak Sonora Plate Green Leaf environmental Award. Stuff is the Kiwi arm of what was Fairfax.

    Kodak has been running the Sonora Plate Green Leaf Awards for the last six years, despite other distractions and challenges. The awards underscore how seriously Kodak takes its environmental commitment, and how important it is for this industry to raise its sustainability game.

    The Sonora Green Leaf awards go to printing companies around the world who use the Sonora processless printing plate and are ‘leaders in adopting sustainable practices’.

    These awards take into account various criteria in addition to being a user of Sonora plates and following sustainability production principles. Entrants are also judged on their environmental management activities including water and energy usage and their use of sustainable materials. Kodak’s judging panel also consider participation in projects to improve local sustainability.

    Promoting the graphics industry’s sustainability is one of many ways of changing opinions about print’s environmental impact. But for a rising number of printers, sustainable business practises are paying off in other ways, such as delivering cost savings and overall process efficiency. This is probably the bigger driver.

    Kodak has more than 4,000 Sonora customers, and considers the technology to be relevant for 80 per cent of the global printing industry. The company says that the most recent version of the technology, Sonora X, is a logical replacement for unbaked wet processed plates for many applications.

    On commercial heatset and coldset printing presses Sonora X lasts for up to 400,000 impressions, and on sheetfed presses for up to 200,000. For applications that use UV inks the plate is sufficiently robust for 75,000 impressions.

    Printers producing commercial work, newspapers and packaging are obvious candidates for the Sonora X technology.

    The Sonora Plate Green Leaf Award is the only such global prize in the graphics industry that recognises environmental excellence.

    Over the last few years the winners and their fellow nominees have driven the graphics industry’s sustainability forwards and that has to be a huge plus for print.

    This year there are thirteen recipients. They are Artes Gráficas Sagitario (Bolivia); Presse-Druck- und Verlags-GmbH (Germany); Blackmore Group (UK); Colour King (South Africa); PT. Gelora Aksara Pratama (Indonesia); Hebei Xindong Printing Co. (China); Leanin Tree (US); Mitchell Press (Canada); Profeather Printing (China); SRB Printing (South Korea); Stuff New Zealand (New Zealand); Toyokuni Printing Co. (Japan); Wijeya Newspapers (Sri Lanka).

  • M&S ‘no pack’ is a threat to printed volumes – Laurel Brunner

    Marks & Spencer, the UK-based multinational retailer, is replacing packaging on 90 lines of loose fruit and vegetables with no packaging at all. Instead it will have available live action green grocers, people with pulses as it were.

    They will assist customers with their vegetable purchases, and along with cooking tips and storage advice, will provide compostable punnets for the more delicate fruits and veg. The rest will just go straight into a shopping bag and there will be no “best before” dates.

    How radical is that? Well not really, although it’s pretty dramatic for the twenty-first century. For those who remember shopping in the high street or village shop, this approach to service is a step back in time to a less overly engineered and packaged age. For younger generations it will be a novelty and a salve to their consciences. Hopefully people will respond positively and M&S will get a return.

    This is a serious matter both environmentally and for retailers who may want to follow suit. It is eminently sensible to revert to a packaging model that is neither excessive or over-engineered, and to using packaging only when necessary. It’s a sensible approach based on environmental realities as well as the practicalities of packaging and customer expectations. If other food retailers take the M&S lead, we can expect a profound drop in the amount of packaging waste and also in printed packaging volumes.

    Gloomy as it looks for graphics professionals, the trend away from excess packaging might create new opportunities. There’s the obvious, such as for signage or storage and cooking guidance that doesn’t rely on plastic. Less obvious is wrapping sheets and paper bags printed with bar codes and branded for different fruits and veg. Add nutrition info and recipe ideas and you’ve got a whole new printed packaging format. Link it to ideas sharing on social media and the picture looks even rosier.

    For those members of the packaging community who have thrived on packaging every vegetable in sight, from potatoes to avocados, it’s time to look ahead. The M&S move may backfire but it’s just a matter of time before packaging gets reinvented along more sustainable lines and without the plastic. Better to have it all wrapped up in advance than to be left behind.

    – 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.

  • Packaging paper produced from grass

    Grass paper: disruptive

    A new development of grass based paper could seriously disrupt the packaging industry.

    Scheufelen Paper, a leading European maker of coated premium paper products for the graphics business, is developing a new paper based on grass. Scheufelen’s new development has interesting potential as an exciting alternative for packaging, as well as being suitable for graphic papers.

    In common with most of the paper industry, Scheufelen Paper has seen its traditional business decline, so a couple of years ago it started developing grass based papers. The company recently attracted further investment to develop its ideas and products from the Green Growth Fund 2 (GGF2). The GGF2 targets energy and resource-efficient companies in the European Union and supports them to grow globally. The GGF2 investment into Scheufelen allows the company to scale up development and production of grasspaper products, in the hope of seriously disrupting the paper industry.

    Scheufelen claims that manufacture of this new substrate consumes less than half the resources of processes using chemical cellulose sourced from wood. It says this is because the raw material used in grass papers, sundried grass, is sourced close to its point of manufacture, and because production requires 50 per cent less energy and chemicals. It also saves 6,000 litres of water per tonne compared to alternative processes, and collapses supply chains taking out the emissions associated with transport.

    Scheufelen’s product is based on fresh fibre pulp, and turning it into paper requires far less water and energy. The company says it uses less than a litre of water per tonne, and 4.8 fewer tonnes of carbon dioxide to manufacture grasspaper, and says that it requires no processing chemicals.

    Scheufelen’s grasspaper can be used for office papers and books, but perhaps more interesting is that it can also work for packaging. This industry is worth many billions of dollars, and these new grass based papers can apparently be used instead of petro-chemical based plastics.

    Scheufelen expects to develop products suitable for corrugated and folding box food packaging applications, and as grasspaper has ‘bio-based water and fat barriers’, the company expects it to replace food pouches, trays, cups, foils, and cards made from plastic.

    Scheufelen board member Andreas Rohardt has 30 years experience in the wood, pulp and paper industry and says that “just as people switched from fresh-fiber white paper to recycled paper en masse in the past, we expect people to shift now from plastic and recycled paper bags, trays, packaging foils with their negative health effects to grasspaper, which is cost-competitive, with a smaller environmental footprint, and [carries] less health risks.”

    The increase in funding will be used to scale up grasspaper production to significant monthly volumes, primarily for food and retail applications. And grasspaper can be readily recycled and composted. If this is all true and everything goes to plan, Scheufelen’s grasspaper could indeed seriously disrupt the paper industry.

    – 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.

  • 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.