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.
In packaging this is vital for the development of circular economies. Packaging is also the only sector of print immune to a wholly digital business model. Other forms of print, such as books, newspapers, magazines, communications and documentations, can all exist in wholly digital form. But packaging, which protects and stores goods of all sorts, cannot be digitised. It has to physically exist and it’s also a highly effective advertising carrier, and this is a major driver for output quality improvements.
Developers of specialty inks, glues and coatings have been busy. ACTEGA has recently introduced ACTGreen Barrier Coatings. Unlike traditional plastic laminates these water based materials are easily recyclable. Barrier coatings like these will help make packaging much more sustainable, and help it to move away from plastic polyethelene (PE) laminates. PE laminates are used in a wide range of packages because they provide protection from oils, fats and water as well as other ingredients. But PE is expensive and difficult to recycle because the plastic layer must be removed from the paper or board substrate, prior to recycling. PE based packages can also be complicated to produce. This is why ACTEGA’s new range is so exciting. It simplifies package production, which cuts production related emissions as well as the cost of packaging production. The ACTGreen range is water based and uses thermoplastic elastomer (TDE) dispersions which are suitable for many applications beyond packaging. They have good tear and abrasion resistance and resistance to substances, including alcohol and dairy products as well as being easy to recycle.
Materials innovation has become the most dynamic area of development activity in the modern graphics industry. Other technologies are taking a back seat to advances in materials science and logistics, particularly for waste management and recycling.
We can expect more innovation along the lines of ACTGreen Barrier Coatings. This will in turn put pressure of developers of printing systems and ink makers who will need to ensure optimum output quality on the new substrates.
– Laurel Brunner
This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, Fujifilm, HP, Kodak, Miraclon, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.