Agfa Graphics has been working with an independent Flemish institute to find out more about print’s environmental impact, with some interesting results. VITO specialises in research into energy, environment and materials, and has been around for some thirty years. VITO has done a carbon footprint analysis of several of Agfa’s plate technologies, however its conclusions are relevant for all plate technologies.
According to VITO’s research, plate manufacturing and prepress activities can account for some 20% of the total Product Carbon Footprint of a printing plate, with the balance in raw material extraction and processing. Obviously the most recent printing plate technologies have the lowest impact, since they have generally been designed with efficiency and environmental friendliness in mind. The VITO report notes that there is a clear convergence in the industry between economic and ecological benefits of technologies use for print media production.
The study also considers the impact of recycling, since many printers around the world sell on used printing plates for recyclying. This can be a lucrative business because aluminium is one of the world’s most readily recylced materials since it degrades very little with use. Printing plates use top grade aluminium so once they are done with, they make an excellent raw material for other applications. Preferably it gets recycled into products with an extended lifespan such as aircraft or building interiors. Recycling aluminium in this way reduces the amount of bauxite that has to be mined to feed appetites for aluminium beyond the printing industry.
The VITO work only considers plate manufacturing and use, which is only one part of the print media supply chain. However it is an extremely important part of the process, not least because print’s consumable can provide another industry with a raw material. Also VITO only considers the carbon footprint of printing plate manufacture and use, rather than the total environmental impact which requires more extensive work. Agfa Graphics is inviting other industry players to work with it on further work “to examine the common issues and to discover new ways to make the printing industry more sustainable”. This is a highly laudable objective and we look foward to tracking progress over the coming months.
You can download the white paper here: http://bit.ly/Hujnun
– Laurel Brunner