Packaging printers are under constant pressure to improve their environmental footprints. But it’s generally the brands who get it in the neck from consumer groups pressuring for change. That is likely to be the case for a while, although it isn’t necessarily a safe assumption to think printing companies are immune. In the UK recently an environmental group managed to prevent three newspaper printing plants from getting their papers out to newsagents. The protesters’ gripe was not on the basis that printing is bad for the environment, but that the national press does not provide enough coverage of environmental concerns.
The oil oligarchy must be getting anxious. Not only are oil prices way down because of the reduction in transportation and the rise in renewable energy, but plastics are being steadily phased out across industries. In the graphics business we are seeing some highly innovative approaches to replacing plastics in all sorts of areas, from paper bottles through to polybags made from compostable materials. More importantly some very large companies have committed to removing plastics in their products. This will help drive change in supply chains, and help to wean all players off the plastics habit.
Along with book printing, packaging is one of the few areas of print that is thriving. Calls for better waste management particularly of plastics and for recycling are getting louder, amid wider concerns over packaging’s overall environmental impact, particularly as it gets more complex.
Many graphic arts companies want to do their bit to help mitigate climate change. They might take it really seriously and be ISO 14001 (Environmental management systems) certified, or they might prefer to be a little looser in how they cut carbon and environmental impacts. Either way they are faced with working with other companies, and evaluating their sustainability claims in some sort of context.
Whatever the calculations of governments and citizens around the world, whatever our wishful thinking and convincing denials, we won’t be out of this for a long time. The corona virus and its devastating effects on our economies, businesses and lives is forcing people to rethink how their worlds function. For businesses, sustainability would appear to be taking a backseat to bigger problems of revenue generation and staffing levels.