The printing industry can so easily become the bête noire when it comes to environmental discussions regarding the future of the planet. In the west, it is often miscast in the same villainous role as the oil and tobacco companies. While we can choose to buy a hybrid car or change an incandescent light bulb to a CFL, it is hard not to read paper-based publications. The truth is that we all read publications and hold in our hands the product of the printing industry’s endeavours – ink on paper. And it’s going to stay that way for many years to come. Yet, the printing industry needs to understand its impact on our world – paper and power consumption and waste generation – and how we can help minimise that impact.
Regulation in other countries
Under the new Lacy Act law passed by the American government, “All wood products and producers have to be certified by FSC certification or equivalent to have originated from a legal resource and else the entry for the Wood products is banned in to USA. A similar act has been put in place by European Union (FLEGT License) to stop the trade in illegal wood and wood products and will be enforced starting in the third quarter of 2009, if not earlier. Other countries are also in process of establishing a similar code
Why is this necessary?
Best practice from an environmental perspective results in reduced land-fill, reduced toxic waste and emissions from pulp and paper processing entering waterways and the air, and less demand on paper that is sourced from virgin forests.
Some interesting facts:
– Over 40 per cent of trees that are logged globally are used to make paper
– Recycled paper accounts for about 10 per cent of the paper market worldwide
Affluent countries such as the United States and Australia are among the leading consumers of paper.
Paper consumption is growing. About 95 per cent of business information is still stored on paper, while the greater availability of copying machines, printers and fax machines, as well as personal computers and desktop printers, has produced an increase rather than a decrease in demand for paper.
It is not easy being green
It is not easy being green. There are so many things to measure, compare and ponder over – lots of complex trade-offs. The economic downturn makes the whole green thing much harder. At a time of less work, scarcer credit and uncertainty about future prospects, the focus shifts to survival. That seems certain to mean less money and time devoted to reducing environmental damage, boosting energy efficiency, increasing recycling and cutting carbon.
Yet, the global environmental crisis is very real and mounting. Climate change gets all the headlines these days, but it is only the half of it. The overstretch of critical natural resources – fresh water, forests, croplands, wetlands, fisheries, glaziers – will worsen, driven by growing populations and economies.
In the west, there has been significant progress from both the paper and print industry on improved environmental performance. However, this industry with its heavy energy consumption, its huge flows of wastes and recyclates and its ultimate dependence on forestry products, will always remain in the environmental firing line.
Big chunks of the business, like throwaway free newspapers and unsolicited direct mail, look highly questionable to environmentalists.
What is the print industry doing?
For most printers, the need to adapt to the best environment practices is driven by pressure from their customers and agencies. Several overseas print buyers around the world now insist that their print provider implement ISO 14001 (Environment Management System). Increasingly, print buyers specify the use of FSC or PEFC paper stocks – though the current economic downturn has changed this a bit. Two aspects or ingredients can immediately be demanded by printers from their paper suppliers – the first is the origin and sustainability of the fibre and the second is the bleaching method used in the pulping process. Some guidelines for this are provided below.
More recently, the green movement is also moving from paper to the plate and printing room, and even to the bindery. Several printers have eliminated the use of films and chemicals and have converted to computer to plate. Printers are increasingly using vegetable based inks instead of oil-based inks and looking at alcohol free dampening solutions. Chemicals that are harmful to the environment are disposed as per environment disposal norms.
The paper trail of custody
This “chain-of-custody” thinking is perhaps most evident in paper supplies. A number of corporates are demanding environmental accreditation of paper stocks. Certification of managed forests and the products they yield is a growing trend and several standards are now operating.
FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. Established in 1993 as a response to concerns over global deforestation, FSC is widely regarded as one of the most important initiatives of the last decade to promote responsible forest management worldwide. The FSC label provides a credible link between responsible production and consumption, enabling consumers and businesses to make purchasing decisions that benefit people and the environment as well as providing ongoing business value.
Environmental labels and schemes
The sourcing of wood fibre from well-managed forests is referred to as:
– FSC; PEFC; SFI
Environmentally responsible manufacture is referred to as:
– ISO 14001; EMAS; Nordic Swan; Blue Angel; EU Eco-label
The Forest Stewardship Council is an international organisation promoting responsible forest management. FSC has developed principles for forest management and a system of tracing, verifying and labelling timber and wood products, which originate from FSC certified forests. A minimum of 30 per cent of the virgin fibre must be FSC approved for the product to carry the logo.
The Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is the European Union’s voluntary instrument, which acknowledges organizations that improve their environmental performance on a continuous basis. EMAS registered organizations are legally compliant, run an environment management system and report on their environmental performance through the publication of an independently verified environmental statement. They are recognized by the EMAS logo, which guarantees the reliability of the information provided.
The PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) is a framework for the mutual recognition of national or regional forest certification schemes, rather than being a specific scheme in its own right. National governing bodies apply for membership of the PEFC Council (eg: the Finnish Forest Certification Council is endorsed by the PEFC). A minimum of 70 per cent of the fibre must be PEFC approved for the product to carry the logo.
An environmental label encouraging production methods that create minimum environmental impact. The broad criteria are a ‘life cycle analysis,’ quality and performance standards and the periodic raising of environmental standards. This is now being replaced in favour of environmental management systems such as EMAS.
Sustainable Forestry Initiative. The American Forest and Paper Association’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative aims to ensure ongoing renewable resources across the country.
EU Eco Label
The EU Eco-label ‘Flower’ is a certification scheme aimed to help European consumers distinguish greener, more environmentally friendly, products and services (not including food and medicine). Over the past ten years, the ‘Flower’ has become a European-wide symbol for products, providing simple and accurate guidance to consumers. All products bearing the ‘Flower’ have been checked by independent bodies for complying with strict ecological and performance criteria.
White paper undergoes a bleaching process. In the past chlorine bleaching was the preferred method because it produced the whitest pulp — however it produces organochloride compounds, an extremely toxic carcinogen. Many paper mills have adopted more environment-friendly bleaching methods in order to reduce their dioxin emissions.
Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) substitutes more benign compounds such as chlorine dioxide for elemental chlorine gas. Dioxins and other persistent carcinogens still remain in ECF effluent, albeit at significantly lower levels than from chlorine gas based processes.
Process Chlorine Free (PCF) substitutes benign agents such as ozone, hydrogen peroxide, and oxygen, though the pulp may contain recycled or recovered materials that were originally bleached with chlorine.
Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) substitutes more benign agents such as ozone, hydrogen peroxide and oxygen.
Environment protection is catching up in India. Local, federal, corporates, and society at large are waking up to the fact that all need to contribute at every level to protect the environment for our future generations. The Indian printing industry is no exception. Be it machines, or paper or inks – they all have to, sooner rather than later, change to eco-friendly systems and solutions.
Several overseas print buyers are also keen to move towards environment friendly paper and print processes. It is for these reasons that many export oriented printers are looking at the following avenues to become more environmentally responsible.
– Production of paper (from renewable sources but regeneration stressed)
– Use of ink and solvents (without adverse environmental impact)
– Water and energy consumption
– In the years to come, I foresee several printing companies implementing ISO14001, or equivalent certifications.
Sources: Green Guide, Green Fact Sheets, www.spicerspaper.com.au, Evans, P. (1997) The Complete Guide to Eco-friendly Design North Light Books, Ohio, USA. Rethink Paper, Alliance for Environmental Technology