The circular economy is rapidly moving from being the preserve of green activists and investors out into the mainstream. The idea that everything we use should be reused as a new raw material has huge implications for the environment and of course for climate change. But making real changes, the pragmatics of developing circular economy realities, is even more huge and for most of us pretty daunting.
Sad to say the paper industry is still one of the world’s top polluters, alongside steel and energy producers. According to the European Union’s (EU) Science hub the sector is still Europe’s fourth largest polluter and yet it could be doing far more to reduce its emissions. Paper is based on a renewable resource so it is readily recyclable, but as the conversation shifts away from that argument, printed paper is under further threat. Sustainable or not won’t matter, if the pulp and paper sector fails to rouse itself. Regulation beckons if pollution related to pulp and paper production fails to fall.
We tend to expect the makers of substrates to be the ones who come up with affordable and recyclable materials, but Australia’s Cactus Imaging is putting those manufacturers to shame. Cactus Imaging is Australia’s market leader for large format digital print, with extensive international and domestic client bases. It has worked with a major customer to develop a recyclable billboard material that can replace PVC which is more commonly used in Australia.
The enthusiasm for plastics reuse and recycling initiatives is a step in the right direction, but it overlooks the role of consumers. For most people understanding what can and cannot be recycled is difficult, so perhaps the graphics industry can help. Perhaps plastic materials that can be composted should be marked as such, and brand owners could consider expanding efforts to aid guidance.
At the recent Xeikon Café event in Belgium, on display were samples of single use cups printed on a new plastic free stock. Xeikon announced that it is partnering with Kotkamills, a Finnish company which develops repulpable, recyclable and renewable paperboards for packaging and food service applications. Kotkamills is one of twelve recent winners of the NextGen Cup Challenge and Xeikon has been involved in testing its prize winning material. The organisation behind the NextGen Cup Challenge is a consortium set up to address the problem of global food packaging waste and improving the associated supply chains.