Why Print Should Feature in Sustainability Policies

Print may not seem like an obvious process to feature in a corporate sustainability policy, but the fact is that the type of print methodology you choose can impact your overall carbon footprint and deliver valuable reassurance to clients now actively seeking out more proven, environmentally-friendly resources. Going digital will meet these new sustainability requirements.

Digital means paper saved

Those looking for environmental benefits should opt for digital printing because though it still requires the use of paper materials, it typically uses much less paper than traditional methods.

Flexographic printers – those which are typically used for printing high packaging volumes – while being capable of printing on almost any type of service require long setup times and produce so much waste that for every order produced, 15% or more is ends up in the trash.

Digital equipment on the other hand doesn’t require setup, and as it uses electronic charges to print, scrap is often lower than 5% of traditional methods. Just switching printing techniques can eliminate 10% of paper waste, and that’s a conservative estimate. Some digital printers are also capable of utilizing recycled paper, which reduces waste even further.

Digital means energy saved

Power consumption is also reduced with digital machinery which by and large has modest energy consumption and a limited carbon footprint compared with conventional printers. Modern digital printers are designed to be energy efficient and environmentally friendly.  Solvent-based printers tend to be less energy efficient because of the power needed to generate heat for the drying process.

Digital means less greenhouse gases

Ink choice also comes into the environmental equation. Petroleum oil inks have dominated the industry since the 1970s, and reports suggest that offset printing uses more than three million tons of hydrocarbon-based inks and chemicals every year, releasing large quantities of greenhouse gases. More recently and with the onset of digital, the industry has invested in alternative and less environmentally damaging inks such as vegetable based eco solvent and waterless-based variants. Vegetable based inks consists of 51% sustainable materials, and unlike their petroleum-based counterparts, which release high amounts of volatile organic compounds only contribute between 2-15%. Water-based inks are about as environmentally responsible as you can get in this business because they are completely PVC free.

Choices of fabrics and textiles are another key environmental factor. In digital inkjet printers, eco-friendly certified fabrics or textiles are those made with a minimum use of chemicals and pesticides and follow best land management, sustainable farming, animal friendly and fair-trade practices.

Digital saves on toxic chemicals & water.

Traditional printing, both offset and flexographic, requires a lot of toxic chemicals to produce a single printed piece. You need dark room chemicals to produce the polyester of rubber plates. To get a good print from conventional techniques you must add solvents to the colour paste and large amounts of colorants. Cleaning screens and machinery produces a lot of wastewater containing surplus colorants and you must also factor in the chemical solvents necessary to remove ink from the rollers. Though digital printing can’t claim to be chemical-free as it does need some mild solvents to remove ink and the ink itself is oil based, it uses significantly less than older technologies.

Digital means time saved

In conventional printing, providing press proof is a time-consuming affair, with plates having to be made and one print run implemented. With digital, however, you can proof your product on-screen – no time-consuming process, or wasteful plates and print run. Added to this, factor in the carbon emissions saved by clients having to “drive to the printers” to review the proof or the delivery required to get the proof to a client.

Digital means less to landfill

Digital’s print-on-demand capability also reduces warehousing and rules out over production so less product ultimately heads for landfills.

Digital means commercial sense

Sustainability policies are increasingly featuring in any company’s governance indeed, they are now ever more sought out in public sector tenders and contract awards. Governments and key environmentally conscious organisations now want reassurance that the services they buy in are totally aligned to their own sustainability performance indicators.