Following a recent argument with a bunch of tenants in a block of flats in Brighton UK, the local municipality removed all recycling facilities except for glass. A building of 40 flats and around 150 people now throw all their cans, paper, board and recyclable plastics into the trash. It ends up either incinerated or in landfill. The tenants are mostly in uproar and understandably disinclined to traipse off to overflowing streetside recycling bins. But it’s a bigger problem than mere inconvenience. Buyers of recycled raw materials are losing out, because this pattern of behaviour is not unique to a single block of flats.
As the graphics industry’s technological infrastructure comes together, brand owners are driving project designers and printing companies more assertively. But brand owners themselves are under pressure: retailers increasingly sell own brand goods, local producers serve slow food markets and upstart entrepreneurs in all sectors chase market share previously controlled by entrenched brands. Brands must also contend with the changing expectations of consumers. A central concern is the perception that brands have a responsibility for environmental impacts.
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.