Digital printing of textiles gets a lot of hype these days. Technology developers and service providers alike are searching for the next killer app for digital printing systems. The sustainability of these solutions is touted on the basis that they undermine and essentially subvert traditional printed textile production systems, which have a heavy environmental impact. But perhaps the more serious impact happens after production, when textiles are thrown away either for recycling via charity shops or just as waste. In the European Union (EU) alone 4.3 million tonnes of textile waste gets burnt up or landfilled every year. Even though hundreds of thousands of tonnes of new textiles come to market monthly, hardly any of it contributes to a circular economy.
Set up in 2019, PrintCYC is an initiative for recycling and processing printed plastic film waste. It has the support of Huber Group, a leading ink manufacturer and numerous other participants in the plastic film supply chain. The group’s goal is to provide cost-effective and useful new materials made from postindustrial waste. Huber Group and its partners describe PrintCYC (which rather oddly stands for Printed Polypropylene (PP) and Polyethylene (PE) films for mechanical recycling) as “a value chain initiative for the recyling of printed films”. The group includes machine makers and other film specialists as well as Huber.
Companies in the graphics industry are not particularly keen on certifications, generally citing cost and hassle as reasons not to bother. This is short sighted because certifications provide various assurances, not least for safety and process reliability and quality assurance. We are seeing a rising number of certifications in the business, particularly as packaging innovations grow. These are for digital printing systems using ISO 12647-2 (Process control for offset printing) as well as for materials and consumables such as inks.
One of the biggest difficulties with solving the recycling and pollution problems the graphics industry faces, is where to start. Identifying what’s most important to solve now, what can wait and of course how to solve the problem, as the clock ticks on. Fortunately in our industry inventions are coming thing and fast. Not only are we seeing special interest associations forming, but makers of materials are designing their products to be easier to recycle.
Here’s a clever idea: watermark packaging so that a sorting system can be more accurate and recycling processes more efficient.That’s what AIM, the European Brands Association, is encouraging companies to do. AIM represents manufacturers of branded consumer goods in Europe, and is particularly concerned with matters relating to their ability to design, distribute and market their brands. Directly or indirectly through its corporate and national association members, the group represents 2500 businesses ranging from small to medium sized enterprises through to multinationals. The group has set up a project called Holy Grail 2.0, which sounds like it might well be a joke. Joke or not, over 85 companies have signed up to Holy Grail 2.0, most recently Sun Chemical, a leading maker of printing inks, coatings, pigments, polymers, liquid and, solid compounds, and application materials.