According to the United Nations, as many as three planets’ worth of resources may be required to sustain our current lifestyles when the population reaches 9.7 billion by 2050. This sobering statistic is part of the data gathered for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that began in 2015.
Today, we understand how important it is for everyone to do their part in making sure they conserve the planet for future generations. The print industry is no exception.
Sustainability has been more than just a buzzword in the last few years. Innovations and re-examinations have created several changes to make processes and products more sustainable in the print industry. Understanding these sustainable printing practices will help businesses steer their enterprise into more responsible paths.
This article will focus on sustainability in the print industry – what is being done today and how businesses can become more sustainable in printing. It will also take a glimpse of what the future has in store for the sector.
What Is Sustainability?
Although everyone will likely have a grasp of what sustainability is, outlining the concept still helps, especially in the context of the print industry.
Sustainability here means access to and use of natural resources in a way that fulfills economic and commercial needs while still preserving them for future generations. In the print industry, several avenues for sustainability exist, including the materials or equipment used for printing, the printing process itself, and the management of waste.
At Duplo International, we have solar panels for sustainable energy renewable energy, landfill waste reduction strategies, and partnerships with companies known for their sustainable practices. More than 90% of our sales today are for products sourced from factories that adhere to the international standard for environmental management systems (or EMS).
Why Become More Sustainable?
On top of companies’ desire to do their part in preserving the planet, there are several compelling business motivations for adopting sustainable practices. According to Forbes, in many places around the globe, companies can take advantage of tax credits and financial incentives when they become more sustainable. Improving efficiency and productivity also often coincides with becoming more sustainable.
The modern consumer prefers more environmentally conscious brands. According to an article published in the Business News Daily, a survey found that 66% of respondents and 75% of Millennial respondents consider sustainability when making purchasing decisions.
Notable Sustainable Printing Practices
The following are a few of the most notable and recent innovations in sustainable printing:
UV printers, like the DuSense stand out from more traditional equipment because they employ an innovative drying method called UV curing. This method uses UV light to dry the ink in a matter of seconds – a fraction of the time it would take for printers that use heat for the same goal.
Not only do UV printers greatly reduce the turnaround times for printing, but they also use around 20% less ink than conventional printers. Despite their size, UV printers also use noticeably less energy than traditional print-drying methods. The instant-on and off functionality common to UV printers also minimises the standby consumption between cycles, which lowers CO2 emissions as well.
The use of LED UV printers is a strong statement for both sustainability and efficiency goals.
This method of printing does not rely on printing plates, unlike offset printing. Instead, digital-based images are printed directly onto a variety of media substrates. Digital printing presses can receive digital files, such as PDFs and desktop publishing files, directly and print them on substrates like canvas, fabric, cardstock, and paper.
The efficiency of digital printing contributes to sustainability. Digital printers produce less CO2 emissions compared to more traditional printing presses. Many of these printers are also carbon-neutral, which means they cancel out the carbon produced as a by-product of printing.
Digital printing produces substantially less waste than conventional printers, mainly due to the process’s non-reliance on printing plates. These plates degrade with use. After some time, printing plates need to be replaced with new ones, which adds to the waste produced colours.
Carbon Balanced Printing
Carbon emissions produced in the process of printing can be quantified and compared. Carbon balancing is achieved when the CO2 produced during the entire paper and printer production and delivery have been offset. There are carbon balanced printers and carbon balanced papers in the market to make printing more sustainable.
With the help of the globally renowned organisation World Land Trust (WLT), companies can measure their carbon footprint and take steps to reduce and offset it. WLT performs carbon balancing by conserving ecologically important forests under imminent threat of clearance. They claim that using carbon balanced paper and printers is one of the most sustainable print solutions available today.
While this method may seem like using recycled paper, it takes that sentiment a step further. To produce recycled paper, mills still use fresh fibres from new trees. When these fibres are sourced from sustainably managed forests, the overall carbon emissions are reduced.
Sustainable Printing Inks
Aside from making the process more efficient and using sustainably produced papers, companies can also take advantage of more eco-friendly inks for sustainable printing.
Roughly four billion kilograms of ink is used for printing around the world every year. That contains around 800 million kilograms of petroleum-based pigment. Eco-friendly inks forgo the very limited petroleum and are made from alternative raw materials like vegetables.
Soy ink is among the most popular of these eco-friendly options. Many renowned newspaper outfits such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today use soy ink.
Another eco-friendly ink growing in popularity was developed by researchers from Colorado State University. Instead of using vegetables, they created ink from algae. This is revolutionary since the plant does not use fertilisers, herbicides, or genetically modified seeds. Above all, algae are in abundant supply. Right now, this ink can only produce a limited range of colours, but many organisations are already using it.
Other Sustainable Practices for the Print Industry
Here are a few more practices that do not necessarily focus on the process or materials used in printing but promote sustainability nonetheless:
What Does the Future Hold for Sustainable Printing?
According to Radixweb, much of the drop in print volumes experienced in several print substrates in the last couple of years will be permanent. This reflects a more widespread trend across the print industry. While this may sound like unfortunate news, there are other rising opportunities for the sector. The boom of e-commerce alongside the increasing popularity of small- to medium-sized retail business will mean a rising demand for print in packaging .
Despite the uncertainty in some areas of the industry, sustainability will continue to be a focal point. As demand for print fluctuates, it will be increasingly important to shift attention to keeping processes as efficient as possible. Technologies that produce more results for less resources will become more and more common. Innovations in inks and substrates will continue to flood the market as companies look for more viable and sustainable alternatives.
Sustainability is now the main focus for enterprises in different industries. This is also true for companies in the print sector. The need for more sustainable printing practices is apparent not just for preserving the environment, but in a business sense as well.
Sustainable printing practices improve efficiency and overall productivity. The modern consumer also gravitates towards brands that promote sustainability.
Companies should employ efficient technologies and eco-friendly materials to become more sustainable. Improvements in equipment, design, and logistical practices also contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions.
A strong emphasis on sustainability now will position companies to better take advantage of further improvements in print techniques and technologies when they become available in the future.
For more information about sustainability in the printing industry, get in touch with us by filling out the form on our contact page. Duplo International provides automated and easy to use finishing solutions for the print and digital packaging market, by automating complex manual processes and connecting finishing solutions to your print production environment, we simply help you produce more, with less.