How sustainable is the print industry?

We don’t often think of the print industry and its abundance of paper when we think of sustainability. Back in the days of The Gutenberg Bible, the first ever printed book, this was less of a worry, as the print industry began its life and was enshrined as a revolutionary development accredited to the works of Johannes Gutenberg. he tide has changed slightly, and most of us are taken aback by the sheer volume of printed marketing materials that filter through our letterboxes on a daily basis, browsed through rarely and doomed to the recycling bin.

Over the past decade, the demand for sustainability has been amplified intensely and it is now a narrative that the print industry cannot afford to ignore. From deforestation to the natural oils used to create inks, the industry is facing an unprecedented challenge, but here’s how we are at the forefront of overcoming and embodying new values. Let’s look at some of the most environmentally friendly innovations sweeping through the sector:

Plant based inks

In recent years, a few of us have made the switch to plant milk in our tea, but did you know that our printers could also be using the plant derivative? Traditional inks are made using petroleum, which release volatile organic compounds (or VOC’s). They are linked to a whole host of negative environmental affects, and they’ve even been linked to causing some adverse health conditions under long periods of exposure. As well as this, petroleum oil is ultimately derived from one of the earths finite resources: oil. Vegetable and plant-based inks are more sustainable, with properties that lend themselves to easier de-inking meaning they can be readily recycled. Suppliers of these alternatives tend to embody a more conscious perspective towards the printing industry, so this could certainly be a viable option for any business that is looking to make its digital printing eco-friendlier.

Deforestation

14% of all deforestation is done to meet our demand for paper products, equaling the destruction of almost 4.1 million hectares of forest every year. This statistic is under scrutiny by environmentalists, making the print industry a focal point for implementing change. Trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen — something which was drilled into each and every one of us in science classes a school, but the gravity of this is becoming a cause for concern as more and more areas of green face the chop. An astounding 502,000 square miles have been cut down in the period 1990 – 2016, impacting biodiversity massively.

Recycled paper

The question remains: how do we combat deforestation? Recycled paper has been increasingly brought into the mainstream of the print industry, and it is a proactive step towards becoming more sustainable. Currently, the UK recycles 12.5 million tonnes of paper and cardboard annually, and many more print industry businesses should be prepared to make the switch to really get the most out of this figure. Recycled paper is the greenest option, requiring less water and energy to produce, and contributing far less to overall carbon emissions. Paper fibres can be recycled repeatedly, up to 5 times, which will help the print industry to cut down on how much paper goes to landfill sites. Many brands in the sector have already committed to the eco-friendlier alternative, demonstrating proactivity in the print industry towards increasing sustainability. Plus, recycled papers have been developed to replicate the bright white quality of conventional sheets — making it even more feasible for the digital printing industry to adopt them into their strategy.

More positively, the print industry is making some notably positive steps in achieving a good sustainability rate, listening to the demands and concerns of both the client and the consumer.