Consumables developers have placed themselves at the forefront of sustainability. Thanks to them, printers can now go to the market armed with credible sustainable practices and products across the board
With print under sustained attack from external sources, who present it as an environmentally unfriendly product, hardly anyone questions enemies of print when they claim that media barons make millions from destroying the world’s rainforests to produce newspapers. In truth, those rainforests would still be standing if other industries hadn’t destroyed them for the planting of palm oil and other cash crops.
Major corporations, looking to cut costs at every opportunity, now provide electronic data to shareholders, under the guise of reducing the impact on the environment, forgoing the production of printed annual reports and other documentation, and ignoring the facts at hand.
According to sustainability scientist Phillip Lawrence who spoke at last year’s PrintNZ conference, print has done more than any other industry to transform itself into a sustainable manufacturing business.
Many print suppliers find that customers now address their environmental profile, embracing change. Dean Openshaw, manager consumables at MAN Ferrostaal, says, “The market has started to demand sustainability. There’s a very high expectation now from end users, brokers, and print buyers. Large business is also look for an improved corporate profile and they see some excellent marketing opportunities. We now have not only the best products available for our customers, but more importantly the knowledge base to support these developments.”
Openshaw points out that at some stage, we will follow the examples of Europe and the USA by legislating for change, but he advises, “It is much better to start working on this now at your own pace.
Blair Welch business manager, Hostmann Steinberg New Zealand, agrees saying, “The environmental issues are in everybodys’ minds, so anything our customers can offer the print buyer that makes a difference will help.”
THE latest generation of plates from the major manufacturers like Fujifilm, Kodak, and Agfa, has all but eliminated any harmful chemicals from their process. They now use different terms to describe the level and location of post exposure processing required.
Processless, or non-process, usually refers to plates that are washed off on the press. Once out of the CTP there is no processing unit. The press itself washes the plate with the fount solution during makeready. Phase change technology, as used in Fuji’s Brillia Pro-T, and Kodak’s Thermal Direct, creates an image on the plate when polymers in the coating cross link and bond with the substrate during exposure. The areas that do not link are soluble and removed on press to complete the development. The plate manufacturers also have chemistry free plates, which involve an off-press processing unit, but are still chemistry free. It’s often just a detergent and or gumming solution. A chemistry free workflow has much to recommend it, apart from the fact that it is more environmentally friendly, convenient and helps streamline the workflow.
THE flood of sustainable accreditation from paper manufacturers comes as good news for printers, and buyers have virtually no reason to use paper that does not have some sort of external accreditation on it. Paper companies have focused on becoming responsible environmental citizens. Indeed, the big Scandinavian papermakers sit at the top of the corporate sustainability lists released each year.
Printers can now tell the market that the papers they use come from sustainable stock, and possess external accreditation. Certain parts of the market, particularly the major corporate, government and advertising agencies, have begun to demand sustainable product from their suppliers. Printers that can provide external accreditation for their paper stock find themselves in the box seat for the big clients, and soon those who are not using external accreditation may find themselves frozen out altogether.
Inks and washes
IN inks, perhaps we have witnessed the virtual elimination of some of the heavy chemicals previously in use, such as lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, antimony, barium, selenium, silver, nickel, copper, and even arsenic.
Until recently, the printing industry has used petroleum-based inks, which have two primary environmental drawbacks. First, petroleum, a non-renewable resource, forms their base. Second, they release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which reduce indoor air quality and can have negative short- and long-term health effects. However, an alternative exists: mineral free inks. Manufacturers make the base liquid for these inks from a variety of vegetable oils such as corn, walnut, coconut, linseed, canola and soy bean, all renewable resources. Vegetable based ink takes longer to dry but, as a result, releases only around 2-4 per cent VOCs into the atmosphere, even zero in some cases. The press can be cleaned with a water based cleaner, eliminating the need for solvents and reducing VOCs.
At Hostmann Steinberg, Blair Welch says the company has introduced a recycling scheme for washes. He says, “We’re working with Blue Star, recycling their used wash and turning it back into usable wash again. What happens with that is we sell them a product called recycled wash. They use it in their process and they end up with waste wash. We recycle that, turning it back it back into neat solvent through a distillation process here on site, and then we resupply it as a wash.”