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Is Sustainability In The Printing Industry Possible?

digital printing

The last time you threw out a whole report or documentation, you probably thought “What a waste!”
For that very reason, printing is still considered by many a dangerous, wasteful practice which only harms our environment.

While that can certainly be the case for companies who haven’t fully transitioned to digital mediums yet, it is important to also point out the progress that has been made.

From recycled materials, to new bio printing inks, to much better energy-efficient printing equipment, we’re experiencing a green revolution in this industry as well.

Today, both printing companies and buyers are aware that with proper planning, printing can not be nearly as harmful to the environment – and even beneficial. Not only do more durable and long-lasting printed products reduce waste, but also each year, more trees are planted than harvested to help sustain the supply of wood for the paper industry.

Current Challenges in Eco-friendly Printing

But not all is “green” as of yet. While many printing companies are striving to go green and use sustainable materials, there are still many limitations to what can be achieved, especially when it comes to printing for industrial companies and manufacturing plants.

That’s because the current technological progress in printing has not yet fully caught up to standard with other sectors experiencing the renewable revolution – and many bio printing materials are not yet good enough substitutes for their more polluting counterparts.

This is especially the case for heavy industries where durability and certain special resistance qualities are needed (such as UV protection, flame resistance, weather or abrasion resistance etc.).

However, this shouldn’t indicate that there is zero progress – there are studies showcasing the transition to higher sustainability in different aspects of the printing process.

And it is true – while 3D printing has significantly improved over the last years, it still requires a massive amount of energy to operate.

What’s the Alternative?

Now, it’s true that if you do need something printed, you have to get it done. And this is especially true in large-scale projects where proper labeling is required and standards must be met.

However, most people content by printing as cheaply as possible don’t realize that this is much more harmful to the environment than paying a little extra.
This involves not only the materials used – but also the quality and durability – and therefore the longevity of the product.

If all of our printed materials lasted for a decade, there will be significantly less harsh pollutants released in the form of rubbish. Once again, cheap usually means unsustainable and will ultimately harm the environment.

Industry Leaders Are Adapting

While some companies have found their niche in the low end of the price-driven market, others have “vowed” to provide only the highest quality products – which ultimately get replaced at the shortest once a decade.

One such example is the company IndustriPrint. Originally founded in Denmark, the printing company has expanded their operations and now runs an office in the United Kingdom as well.

“Fortunately, our customers realize the importance of sustainable and long-lasting products, which is why we exist,” says Paul Mitchel who is their UK representative.

“Most of our customers are heavy industry companies, manufacturers, engineering plants or government or municipality orders — and one thing these organizations need is a peace of mind that their labels won’t fall off in a year or two. So, you can clearly see how the demand in the market positively drives change not only towards more sustainable, but also towards more long-lasting products so that ultimately, we reduce waste,” he adds.


And he is right – in the last few years in particular, we’ve seen a major progress in R&D efforts in producing acrylic from natural materials like glucose or molasses. These natural compounds are often sourced from biomass, glycerol or as a byproduct from the production of some biofuels.

Overall, the bio-based products are becoming more popular with the increase in awareness of environmental safety and protection – otherwise known as the “green movement”. And while expecting a positive impact on a global scale, the bio-based markets for materials like PVC and acrylic are threatened by the high costs of research and development.

While this is often the case with emerging markets and trends, combined with the growing market demands for biomaterials in printing, however, the overall growth forecasts are positive.

Article written by:

I am a writer and reporter for the clean energy sector, I cover climate change issues, new clean technologies, sustainability and green cars. Danny Ovy

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