A printing company that wants to improve its environmental footprint can do a lot on their own, but increasingly they want to work with suppliers such as Xeikon or Agfa and others, who are also doing their bit. And so it goes up and down the supply chain, with environmental commitment involving customers, print service providers and subcontractors.
But how far should printing company owners go? What are the questions they should be asking if they truly want to understand more about their environmental impact? For many printers the answers to such questions are simply too difficult so they’re inclined to ignore them. They would rather not even think about the problem because trying to come up with answers will tie them up in knots.
This is a shame because so many printers and their technology providers have already gone a long way down the environmental knowledge road. There are reasonable answers to many of the questions printers are asking, so they should go as far as they can, within the bounds of what is within their control. For instance, if your plant produces a lot of waste, start looking at why and what can be done to reduce it. This could be as simple as getting people to collect waste paper and put it in a recycling bin or sweeping the floor to reduce dust in the environment.
At the other extreme are the questions printers might ask their suppliers, such as the extent to which raw materials are substituted, recycled or reduced in press manufacture. Or chemistry use and disposal and how easy it is to recycle prints and machinery. None of this has to be particularly ambitious, especially if you are a printer who is really uncertain about what you might do to reduce the environmental impact of print.
Let’s face it, the complexities of Life Cycle Analysis are beyond most printers. Indeed they are beyond most people apart from environmental scientists and their ilk. But the basic principles are not and we are all on a long learning curve with this stuff. We should all be doing our bit and coming to terms with our need to be accountable, in common with all industrial sectors. The alternative is external regulation and that would put more than a handful of nails in print’s collective coffin. No one wants that, so let’s not lose sight of the importance of continuing to reduce the environmental impact of print.
– Laurel Brunner