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Sustainable Best Practices: A New Approach to Printing

(August 2009) posted on Fri Aug 07, 2009

The popularity of sustainable printing is gaining momentum in the screen-printing industry. This discussion describes some of the ways you can actually make your operation more sustainable and highlights the cost savings associated with eco-friendly business decisions.

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• Mechanisms to reduce or eliminate redundant shipping, including shipping distances and optimization of routing and delivery systems
• Guidance from the supplier to minimize use of or eliminate outdated materials
• Options to reuse and recycle unused materials and disposable packaging, such as cores, cartons, drums, or cans
• Exploration of products that minimize or eliminate waste
• Use of minimal packaging
• Establishment of take-back programs for unused materials
• Awareness of substrate characteristics, including biodegradability, compostibility, recyclability, and recycled content—including pre- and post-consumer content, source and content of non-paper substrates, and amount of renewable energy used in the manufacturing process

The process
Now let’s look at the process. The process includes all manufacturing steps (e.g., prepress, on press, and finishing) involved with converting raw materials into finished products, including process by-products—solid wastes, air pollution, and wastewater, for example—that have an environmental, health, and safety impact.

Engage in discussions with your press operators regarding raw-material usage. Can they put a program in place to estimate raw-material usage per job, and can you successfully provide only the minimum amount of these raw materials to them? Such a program can reduce raw-material contamination, especially true with inks, and cost avoidance for your customer. Another option is to install an autofill ink system, which provides ink to the press automatically and minimizes ink contamination and, as a result, ink waste and ink-disposal costs.

Take time to review the proofing systems you have in place. Obviously, approval via a computer file is the most efficient way to go. Do your clients know that soft proofing is an option? Open dialogues with clients who are accustomed to receiving hard copies for approval and make them aware of alternatives. It’s true that on-screen proofing as an approval process requires the evaluation of the printed product at a scale that probably differs from the actual finished piece, but it also represents less waste and reduced shipping costs.

Major equipment purchases may be required to replace/upgrade an existing piece of equipment that has served its useful life. Such assets may also be purchased to expand your business’s existing operations or capabilities. Your equipment purchases should undergo a review for environmental, health, and safety considerations and to minimize energy consumption.


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