Printer's Resource FAQ

How can I become a greener printer?

Although no governmental regulatory body exists to define what a "green printer" is, developing and implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS) is one place to start. Being able to provide documented information about your company's efforts to reduce its environmental impact through reduction of energy use, implementation of recycled substrate, proper ink and chemical use and disposal, use of low-VOC or plant-derived inks, and in-house recycling will help support your claims to sustainability.

"SGIA has long been an advocate of the EMS and has templates and other information that can get you started," says Marcia Kinter, VP for government and business information for SGIA. "Adoption of an EMS helps position a company in front of its customers by providing a strong story relating both the commitment and the initiatives taken to reduce the environmental footprint."

Switch to UV.
UV digital and screen inks are cured with the use of a UV light, curing a mostly solid ink film and almost eliminating the release of VOC's into the air. Solvent based inks, some of which may be classified as hazardous waste, emit volatile compounds which also must be regulated for employee safety and disposal purposes. Screen printing was an early adopter of UV and now digital markets are moving more and more to UV. The advantages of UV are evident, including elimination of heavy metals, less VOC emissions, less solvent vapor exposure to the printer, fewer harsh cleaners used in the printing and cleaning processes, more efficient ink curing, and reduction in energy used by the curing unit.

Using inks which have all heavy metals eliminated from their formulas and which contain only trace amounts of VOC's is a step to becoming more environmentally friendly. Many alternatives to solvent inks have recently hit the market including soy and corn-based products, which effectively reduce emissions without compromising quality.

Recycled Substrates.
Although a wide variety of recycled substrates are available important components to their use would be percentage of recycled content, whether they require the use of solvent-based ink, and if the substrate is post-consumer or pre-consumer waste. Recycling for digital and screen substrates varies by product and is dependent on factors such as what materials local recyclers will process, and the transportation costs to deliver materials to the recycling plant.

In-house Recycling.
Start an office recycling program for: office paper, aluminum cans, glass, plastic, cardboard boxes, light bulbs (mercury extraction), toner cartridges, household batteries, and wood pallets. Even industrial container recycling is available in some areas, such as larger plastic containers, and plastic and metal drum recycling.

In addition to maintaining company records, a variety of business networks exist to moderate between environmentally concerned businesses and consumers and encourage business to business development. These organizations review your business practices, equipment and policies, and provide online and printed network directories. Qualifying for these networks, such as Co-op America's Green Pages, may require filling out an application detailing your company's environmental impact.