In the digital age, printing often gets a bad rep. The production of large amounts of printed materials can often be wasteful. It’s not all needed, and in the past has contributed a great deal to the amount of waste going into landfills. Advents in paper recycling have greatly reduced the impact of paper waste, however there are other factors to consider. In a world where everything is available online, expending resources to produce print versions of products is often seen as wasteful. Add to this the energy requirements and potentially harmful chemicals involved, and you can see why printing isn’t always viewed as the greenest option.
The perception that printing is bad for the environment is understandable, but in 2017, with all our advances, printing doesn’t have to be bad for the environment. Here’s how you can ensure your print operations are environmentally sound.
The main environmental concern where printing is concerned is paper. The process of making paper, as well as how paper is disposed of once it’s been used, is a major issue. Paper is a potentially sustainable resource, being made from wood pulp, which is a renewable raw material that can be recycled and reused. It’s also biodegradable, making any that doesn’t get reused environmentally friendly. Provided paper is created from environmentally sound sources (post-consumer waste and sources that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified), it has minimal impact on the environment. Recycling paper keeps it out of landfills, and since paper fibre has a long recycle life (reusable up to seven times), paper is actually a very environmentally friendly material, provided it’s used and produced sensibly.
Printing uses a lot of electricity, which is another environmental concern. That being said good printers now make use of renewable energy sources, minimising their carbon footprints. In addition, they will enable you to monitor your energy usage, ensuring you utilise your various devices in the most energy efficient manner possible.
Water is another consumable used during the printing process but, like energy, there should be ample monitoring in place to ensure the most efficient use of water possible. In addition, it’s entirely possible to recycle the waste water, preventing any pollution as well as the consumption of water necessary for printing.
Any manufacturing process produces waste, but printing is now different. That being said there are now many ways to minimise the waste produced by printing. This includes using toner cartridges, plastics and pallets, ink tins, aluminium or paper plates, all of which are recyclable.
Pre-press has been revolutionised by new technology that has greatly reduced the environmental impact of printing. These include computer to plate or CTP technology, which doesn’t require chemicals or film, as it’s far more energy efficient. Soft proofing (proofreading on-screen) has greatly reduced the use of consumables, logistics and energy requirements at the proofing stage.
Ink has also changed considerably. Litho ink increasingly uses recyclable and renewable resources like vegetable oil, starch, and soy, which is even effective for fluorescent and metallic ink. Unlike mineral-based ink, soya ink is renewable. Digital inks meanwhile are not oil-based, though they do pose different challenges when it comes to de-inking paper ready for recycling.
One element of printing that should be carefully considered is the binding methods used in production, which can affect whether printed materials are recyclable or not. The major issue here is the form of adhesive used. While there have been some advances in this area, we’re not quite at the point of ensuring full recyclability with all binding methods. At ASL Group we believe it’s a manageable issue, however, and individual printers will be able to tell you in more detail about their own binding methods and which is best from an environmental perspective.
While the printing process has come a long way in recent years, there’s still a lot that individual offices can do to ensure they have a positive impact on the environment. Printing less, and taking steps to ensure their printing is as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible, has a greater impact than many people would credit.
For advice on the best print hardware for your business, and how managed document services can improve your productivity, your bottom line, and your carbon footprint, get in touch with our sales team here. ASL Group are a managed document solutions company, who streamline and improve the print operations of their clients: http://asl-group.co.uk/