First China and now Europe are taking big steps to clean up the environment. Their initiatives could create opportunities in the graphics industry, or be another nail in the sector’s coffin. Opportunities are there if brand owners and packaging printers get involved and take the lead in the recycling debate. Banning materials because they are hard to recycle should be a prompt to supply chains to be more innovative in the materials they use and in their recycling. A public awareness campaign as to which plastics can be recycled and how, would be a good start.
There is a lot of chat going around as to the negative impact of plastic packaging on the environment. On the one hand there’s eight million tonnes of the stuff floating malignant and unopposed in the oceans. And on the other, plastic is a very effective packaging material, especially for keeping food fresh and uncontaminated. It also extends its shelf life and it’s useful for displaying goods and for making carrier bags. Proponents of plastic packaging for bottles, bags, wrappers, tubs and trays will tell you this and they also claim that if some other material, such as metal or paper were used instead of plastic that overall emissions in terms of energy and greenhouse gases, would rise.
Equipment buyers these days make their investment decisions based on various criteria. They consider the overall capital cost, the cost of finance, monthly service charges, consumables costs, support and space. They will also try to factor in the energy cost of a piece of kit, if that is possible.
Publishers tend to know what they want to publish, although they may not know how they want it printed. It’s a step too far to care about the production of a book or magazine, when you’re tearing out your hair to get the content and sales projections right. This is unsurprising: production and printing are someone else’s outsourced problem.
The importance of and interest in Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) in the graphics industry is probably nil. At least at the moment. But at some stage graphics professionals, either in the development community or as publishers and content producers, will need to understand their worth. It’s a tad melodramatic to say that the future of the industry may depend on them, but that could indeed prove to be the case.