Printing has a large environmental impact, both in terms of pollution and in its effect on landfills. The more we can reduce the amount of paper we use, recycle what we do use, and buy recycled paper and “green” equipment, the more we can help protect the environment in which we live and breathe.
One of the ways companies that need printing services can help is by choosing a printing company that is committed to reducing its impact on the environment. Green printing cuts down on the use of paper as well as the use of petroleum, a non-renewable resource that is used in printer inks and binding paper, and as part of maintaining presses and other printing equipment.
Ask your printer if they are taking advantage of the print industry advances outlined below, which are designed to reduce environmental impact.
In the United States, paper is one of the largest contributors to landfills. One tree, on average, creates 16.7 reams of paper, and three tons of wood go into making one ton of virgin paper, or 400 reams. Forty percent of the forests logged around the world end up as paper, according to Canopy Planet, a not-for-profit environmental organization that focuses on protecting forest, species and climate around the world.
Printing companies that use recycled paper or paper with recycled content ease the pressure on landfills by reducing waste. And paper can be recycled many times over. Paper with high post-consumer recycled content can lessen the environmental impact of offset printing and other print work on our forests.
Recycled paper or otherwise environmentally friendly paper offers high-quality alternatives to traditional paper that comes from trees. Not only can paper come from recycled products, it can also come from non-wood sources such as hemp, flax, bagasse and straw.
Look for a company that recycles materials such as paper, corrugated cardboard and metal printing plates. Recycling is an important part of any company’s environmental stewardship plan, and many materials can be recycled.
Environmentally Responsible Inks
Non-petroleum inks such as those made with soy or corn are safer than traditional inks in offset printing. These vegetable-based inks also help in the recycling process because they can be more easily removed from paper during re-inking.
Using vegetable-based inks cuts down on the high levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, released by solvent-based inks. VOCs, which are also contained in emissions that come from burning gasoline, oil and coal, are dangerous toxins that enter the air and water supply.
Environmentally friendly and high-efficiency press and prepress equipment used for offset printing doesn’t have to be cleaned as often as traditional equipment, which reduces the amount of VOCs that enter the air supply.
Computer-to-plate systems eliminate film negatives and their silver nitrate residue, which is highly polluting.
Avoidance of Chlorine Gas
Paper processed with chlorine gas (pure chlorine) for whitening purposes is a major environmental threat. Look for a company whose paper bears one of these designations that show different levels of avoidance of chlorine gas:
- ECF (Elemental Chlorine Free): Processed without chlorine gas. Chlorine products such as household bleach may be used; these products are much more stable.
- TCF (Totally Chlorine Free): No chlorine products are used in production of pulp and paper. If the paper is white, it may have been treated with a product such as hydrogen peroxide.
- PCF (Processed Chlorine Free): Post-consumer recycled content with no chlorine products used (although traces may be present from past processing).
FSC, SFI Certifications
Look for certifications that show the printing company has met certain requirements toward working with environmentally responsible materials as well as supporting environmentally responsible practices:
- Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. The FSC is an international nonprofit dedicated to responsible forest management. Companies with this certification use paper products that bear the FSC label, showing that they come from well-managed forests.
- Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI). The SFI is an independent nonprofit that promotes sustainable forest management. Certification indicates that the company uses products from legal and responsible sources. Fewer than 10 percent of forests worldwide are certified by the SFI.
Sustainability is a high priority at Walsworth, in the way we print, in how we conduct business in general, and in the materials we utilize in our business operations. We are committed to efforts to reduce our impact on the environment.