The graphics industry is at the heart of the recycling industry, but when it comes to environmental accountability, how solid are its credentials? This is an impossible question to answer, but that doesn’t mean we should all give up on trying to answer it or on pursuing a green agenda.
Processless platesetting, makes for more efficient and sustainable production, because it removes the need to chemically remove unexposed plate coatings. It’s a big step forward in making print media production more environmentally friendly, but it has taken a while to gain traction. Early iterations were not entirely processless and the plates were not much use after a few thousand impressions. But over time the technology has improved and now it is finally starting to come into its own, even for long runs and with aggressive inks.
We’ve presented at countless industry events around the world where environmental impact and the graphics industry are on the programme. But unfortunately, for the most part the addition of the topic to the agendas has been more about box ticking than intentions to make any real difference. Nothing ever comes out of these sessions, beyond individual interests for help with ISO 14001 compliance, or a pre-audit or a sustainability training session. From a business point of view for us this is fine, but from the point of view of making a tangible difference for the industry as a whole, this is far from fine. We need major players to take a much more active environmental leadership role.
HP Inc is without doubt the biggest player in the graphics industry. Net revenue in 2018 was a cool $58.3 billion. The R&D spend alone for the year was $1.4 billion. As a founding member of the Verdigris project, we are glad to have HP’s support and glad they can afford it. Support is what environmental impact mitigation is all about, especially now when sustainability and the planet’s health are in crisis. Sustainability efforts from HP, Kodak, Miraclon, Ricoh et al, however are grounded in commercial reality: if the planet crashes and burns, there is no business, only survival. So the more investment into developing the foundations for circular, low carbon economies, the better. It makes good sound business sense, both in the near future and long term.
The European Union (EU) has a special board that, among other things, determines evaluation criteria for the EU Ecolabel for products and services. In January 2019 the outcome of their latest chat was published and makes for interesting reading (yes, really). Instead of having two separate classifications for copying and graphic paper, and newsprint paper, the two are to be merged to form a single product group called graphic paper to sit alongside the other product group which is tissue and tissue based products. The rationale for this is that the merging of graphic paper and newsprint reflects “scientific and market developments”, ie decline. The Commission Decision also removes the limit on weight that applied to the older product groups, so it now includes a wider range of more rigid papers