As digital printing keeps up its steady march across the graphics landscape, it’s easy to forget about progress in conventional print. In addition to improvements in makeready times and energy efficiency on press, great strides have been made with consumables, especially printing plate technologies. Most attention gets paid to processless plates such as Agfa’s Azura, Fujifilm’s ProT and Kodak Sonora. But these are not the only technologies to have helped drive down environmental impacts.
The Fespa show in Hamburg last week brought together a huge lineup of players. They came from all parts of the sign and display business, including digital wide format and screen printing technology providers and users. The textile printing system makers and buyers were also out in force, keen to see a surging number of digital textile production systems for soft signage. The cohort included other textile production options for both roll to roll fabric printing and garments. There was even packaging and label printing equipment on show, plus a huge number of companies offering materials, components and inks. But very few exhibitors were shouting about their environmental credentials and the topic was mostly absent from the Fespa conference and seminar sessions.
Last time we checked there were almost five hundred different eco labels around the world. Most of them applied to food and coffee, or soil or some such. But a handful, such as the Nordic Swan, apply to any type of business, including the graphics industry. The Nordic Swan label is amongst the most internationally respected and it is also special because it has specific guidelines for printers who want to achieve certification.
It’s not unusual to encounter examples of environmental ignorance or to hear alarming comments from people who should know better. We experienced both in a recent meeting whilst discussing the need for environmental standards in the graphics industry. We were told in no uncertain terms that environmental science is really very simple. We were also told that there is a finite amount of carbon dioxide on the planet and that the amount of it won’t expand or diminish. Really?
We all know what happens to printed paper when it’s sent off for recycling. It either gets burnt or sent for processing into new materials, but when old computers reach end of life, matters are less simple.