It’s official (almost). Single use plastics are to be banned in the European Union (EU) by 2019, at least they are where sustainable and affordable alternatives exist. The proposal is still subject to a vote, however if approved, which is likely, it will affect ten such products including plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons. These items will have to be made from more sustainable materials instead, such as paper and wood. Of greater interest to the graphics industry is the somewhat challenging requirement for plastic single-use drinks containers, which are often printed. The rule says “single-use drinks containers made with plastic will only be allowed on the market if their caps and lids remain attached”. There are also plans afoot to require EU member countries to collect 90% of used plastic bottles by 2025, presumably based on production volumes.
Agfa and Kodak have recently announced that printing plate prices are to rise by about 10%. It’s just a matter of time before Fujifilm follows suit, even though the company put prices up by some 8% for US customers last December. The reason is that as the global economy grows, demand for aluminium vastly outstrips supply. The cost of raw materials for plate makers has consequently risen over 40% since 2010. Since December 2017 aluminium has risen in price from $2233, to $2305 per tonne on the 1st June. And the protectionist tariffs of ten percent imposed by the US government on its supposed allies and elsewhere can only make matters worse.
Looking at technology and raw materials processing is only part of the graphics industry’s sustainability picture. It’s easy to forget that if people don’t read, we lose whole markets for books, magazines and newspapers both in print and online.
The history of textile printing is a history of innovation, from transferring colours to substrates with carved woodblocks to digitally printed fabrics. In between such bespoke options are a slew of industrial processes that produce all manner of textiles from linens and curtains through to couture garments and t-shirts. The reversion to technologies that allow us to have custom clothes and interiors is creating all sorts of opportunities for new businesses, mostly driven by e-commerce.
The foresight of both the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) is to be commended. Both organisations provide Chain of Custody (CoC) certifications for wood and wood-based products (furniture, paper and so on). The two have long been striving to make it easier for everyone to trust that products such as paper and building materials, are responsibly sourced. Their considerable efforts have also raised awareness of the need for proactive forest management. We also appreciate the urgent need to stop the loss of forests in developing markets. And we are especially keen on rain forest and habitat protection in places such as Indonesia, where the most egregious examples of arboreal vandalism occur.