It’s the thing that appears to matter most for companies considering an investment into digital printing, be they printers or print buyers. It’s the primary reason why offset continues to command such a healthy lead over digital printing. But calculating the cost per printed page is also the thing that is least understood and most fraught with ambiguity. If we are to fully understand the environmental aspects associated with print so that we can mitigate their impacts, we need a common basis for calculating cost per page.
When it comes to claims relating to environmental certifications, always question the source. There has been a glut of announcements recently by manufacturers claiming that their products are certified to international standards. One ink company is offering products that meet the Cradle to Cradle standard, a standard which has been invented by a group in California called the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute which sounds very impressive. This unaccredited organisation provides its own certification for products, thereby helping companies to demonstrate to customers and regulators that they are committed to sustainability. The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute’s reference document is one of its own invention and is based on continual improvement. In this respect it is much like ISO 9001, the international quality management standard but that is where the similarities end.
Marks & Spencer, a global retailer best known for knickers, socks and divine foods, has recently reported on progress with its Plan A. The 107 environmental commitments enshrined in this plan were originally outlined in 2014, with a goal of achieving them all by 2025. So far 64 have been achieved with a further 25 on track, 11 lagging and six apparently abandoned. The global graphics industry has many reasons to engage with Marks & Spencer from signage and packaging, through to commercial print applications, so being aware of Plan A might help when bidding for new business or striving to hold on to existing work.
The work on ISO 21331, the ISO standard for assessing the deinkability potential of printed matter, is mired in industry politics. However the market really doesn’t care a jot and is moving on regardless. This is a problem for the maneuvering politicians in the paper industry because it means that the market is shifting further away from current practises. The most visible example of this is the work digital press manufacturers are doing on deinking. There are now at least six digital press manufacturers working on new approaches to deinking in order to ensure that digital prints are recyclable.
Efforts to improve the environmental footprint of print take many forms. However the only ones likely to make a difference generally coincide with commercial interests. Owners of such efforts are in a slippery position in that they potentially lay themselves open to charges of greenwashing and exploitation, no matter how sincere their offerings. But even if greenwashing is often the case, it’s not necessarily a bad thing because it can still encourage debate and interaction. This helps break down perceived barriers separating commercial interests and environmentalism. The two are not mutually exclusive, wherever you sit on the environmental spectrum