At the recent DSCOOP in Vienna, a chatfest for users of HP Indigo technologies, HP and partner conversations were many. Participants were keen and even passionate. to share, confident that they were in the right environment for doing so. It’s not as if people forgot that they were amongst potential competitors, but there was a fantastic atmosphere of sharing and learning. It was really quite uplifting, but it was also clear that to few players in the graphics industry have the confidence to talk about sustainability with a straight face. It’s almost as if the environment is not a cool topic for serious business people.
Recent government commitments to renewable energy could spell enhanced opportunities for print in India. The print industry everywhere thrives because most of its practitioners are small companies with relatively few employees. They operate in fairly confined, local markets and share with their larger counterparts a dependence on reliably energy supplies. In markets where energy stability is not a given, such as India, printing companies face an additional hurdle as well as the usual hurly burly of business. Just imagine what energy security could do in such geographies, not only for the graphics industry but also for its customers, especially in the packaging sector.
It’s official (almost). Single use plastics are to be banned in the European Union (EU) by 2019, at least they are where sustainable and affordable alternatives exist. The proposal is still subject to a vote, however if approved, which is likely, it will affect ten such products including plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons. These items will have to be made from more sustainable materials instead, such as paper and wood. Of greater interest to the graphics industry is the somewhat challenging requirement for plastic single-use drinks containers, which are often printed. The rule says “single-use drinks containers made with plastic will only be allowed on the market if their caps and lids remain attached”. There are also plans afoot to require EU member countries to collect 90% of used plastic bottles by 2025, presumably based on production volumes.
Agfa and Kodak have recently announced that printing plate prices are to rise by about 10%. It’s just a matter of time before Fujifilm follows suit, even though the company put prices up by some 8% for US customers last December. The reason is that as the global economy grows, demand for aluminium vastly outstrips supply. The cost of raw materials for plate makers has consequently risen over 40% since 2010. Since December 2017 aluminium has risen in price from $2233, to $2305 per tonne on the 1st June. And the protectionist tariffs of ten percent imposed by the US government on its supposed allies and elsewhere can only make matters worse.
Looking at technology and raw materials processing is only part of the graphics industry’s sustainability picture. It’s easy to forget that if people don’t read, we lose whole markets for books, magazines and newspapers both in print and online.