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Environmentally Friendly Printing

Go on with your creative printing and finishing work while helping to protect the environment.

The various stages of paper production, from fibre-sourcing to development to chemical treatments, can contribute significantly to the ruin of our natural environment. It is estimated that 70 percent of all produced paper come from virgin fibre like the rainforests and cutting them down has contributed to about 30 percent of the global carbon emissions. This is a sad reality that needs to change.

Why recycled paper?

Even with sustainably-managed forest plantations continually producing steady and increased supplies, the need to recycle and reuse materials like paper is still the best way to lessen the detrimental impact their production creates in our environment. This also assures us of less waste.

While high-quality paper are produced by forest plantations, even better from those coming from virgin forests, plantations that are commonly of one species do not support suitable living for wildlife. Virgin forests have also been known to be cleared to make way for these tree plantations, another good reason why recycled papers are still the best choice.

The Types of Recycled Materials

Post-consumer waste-are materials like juice containers which have been used, recycled, and then made useable again like cards and paper.

Pre-consumer waste - are paper mill leftovers like printer test sheets and off-cuts which are re-sold and reused.

Mill-broke - are low-quality, discarded materials that stay in the paper mill like paper which are later pre-pulped and mixed.

Alternative fibres - are non-wood materials like bagasse, cotton, bamboo, or sugar cane waste

Paper production from recycled fibre generates lesser pollution in air and water and needs lesser energy and water compared to virgin fibre-made papers coming from trees. While using vegetable-based inks for recycling paper is safer and better than removing ink with a kind of soap which produces toxic sludge.

Cyclus Offset, an earthy-looking, pulpy paper material is highly recommended for promotional materials like flyers and brochures that you want to appear wholesome and natural. This is an economical off-white paper, uncoated, and with 100 percent post-consumer waste content using ISO 14001, EMAS, Nordic Swan, and Blue Angel as Environmental Management Systems; and uses the Process Chlorine Free (PCF) bleaching process.

For premium bright white, uncoated, 100 percent post-consumer recycled waste content paper, Ecostar is made of top-quality carbon neutral material and recommended as the alternative high-quality, smooth and white material for fine line artwork and photographs. It is carbon neutral and certified as FSC CoC with the fibre sourced near the mill, lessening greenhouse emissions with the little transport required. Similarly, it uses the Process Chlorine Free bleaching method and carries the ISO 14001 and FSC Environmental Management Systems.

Lithographic Printing

Lithographic printing inks are composed of ingredients like the organic or inorganic pigments that create the colour; an oil-based liquid that is mixed with the pigment which later dries up; and a polymer-based or organic resin-based binding agent. The two primary types of ink for lithographic printing are the petroleum-based ink and the vegetable-based ink.

Most popular with printers since it dries faster, petroleum-based inks make printing easier and less time-consuming. But its alcohol and petrol contents quickly evaporate during the process of drying which releases a maximum of 30 percent of harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere. Additionally, another VOC-producing ingredient used to clean the press, the solvents and the toxic waste resulting from cleaning of petroleum-based inks to be used for recycling, contribute to the harm done to the atmosphere.

Vegetable-based Ink

It is best to use vegetable-based ink for printing materials because it is the best alternative to other inks for being environmentally-friendly. Its base liquid comes from different vegetable oils like corn, coconut, walnut, linseed, soy bean, and canola. Even as the drying process for this ink is longer, it only releases between 2 to 4 percent VOCs into the atmosphere, thus significantly less harm is made. The cleaning of the press used with a vegetable-based ink is also easier and safer to the environment because a water-based cleaner can be used to do the job. While it is easier to de-ink and toxic waste is avoided, it is also cheaper than its petroleum counterpart, so vegetable-based inks are expected to dominate the market soon.

For your various printing and designing projects, avoiding the following materials:

Metallic ink - This ink type is not recyclable and commonly ends up in the landfill which then releases toxic chemicals into the water table while its fragments are proven harmful when inhaled by both humans and animals. Aqueous varnishes or finishes like die-cutting or embossing are the best alternatives for creating special designs.

Bad varnishes-It is also not advisable use varnishes because chemicals are used to clean the printing machines after their use. But if you can't avoid using it, try one without the ultraviolet coating. Like the metallic inks, this cannot be recycled and also end up in the landfill. It also needs a lot of energy and solvent-based varnishes also produce the harmful VOCs. Sealers that are vegetable or soy-based and water-based varnishes are cleaner and safer.

Lamination-Laminating business cards and covers may enhance the look and durability of your materials but because this material is also non-recyclable and also ends up landfills, it is also discouraged.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)-these are organic chemical compounds that can damage the atmosphere, soil, and groundwater. They contain harmful chemicals like methane, a greenhouse gas that adds to global warming.

Print Finishing

Finishing, like folding, collating, guillotining, which is done to the materials after the printing process may only prove harmless to our environment with the use of renewable energy. Basic finishing should be done with trimming, folding, and stitching while stapling should be done with large newsletters and booklet materials.

Stitching-metal staples are used to keep pages together for materials like booklets and newsletters. While the staples are removed in recycling, these are not included in the recycling process.

Die cutting-is part of the design process to create rounded edges or shapes into or out of the printed material. The process usually uses a die from the reusable zinc, copper, or brass.

Embossing-is another harmless design style for thicker materials like book covers or flyers. Brass, copper, or zinc is also used in the die for this and mixing it with aqueous varnish on its raised areas can create that extra edge to your design.

Binding-water-based glues are suggested for this process of putting together book pages in the spine. Avoid petroleum-based glues which is harmful to the environment.

The Harmful Finishing Processes

Foil Stamping-a metal die is used to imprint materials with polyester film. While generally less harmful, the materials end up in the landfill because of the difficulty to remove the film during the recycling process.

Thermography-unrecyclable materials like resin powder, rubber, oil-based ink, and a lot of heat energy are used in this process which produces the glossy, raised look of the printed material. A better design alternative to this is embossing which is safer and does not involve too much energy.

If you are in the print and designing business, use some of these environmentally-safe materials and processes while going about with your creativity. Go on with your creative printing and finishing work while helping to protect the environment.