Sustainable Printing Solutions – Ink, Paper, Recycling, Etc.

Read time: 4 minutes  |  Author: PRI Graphics  |  Posted: August 18, 2023

Printing In an Environmentally Responsible Way

The evolution of sustainable printing showcases our printing industry’s commitment to environmental responsibility and resource conservation.

Sustainable printing refers to the practice of printing in an environmentally responsible way. This can include using eco-friendly materials, reducing waste, and minimizing the negative impact on the environment.

PRI Graphics & Signs in Phoenix Arizona, is a sustainable printing company. We are committed to sustainable printing solutions including using environmentally friendly inks and paper and minimizing our ecological footprint.

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Traditional vs Ecological Printing Practices

The world of commercial printing has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past five decades. Technological advancements and an increasing awareness of environmental sustainability have driven this evolution.

The journey from traditional solvent-based printing methods to the adoption of eco-friendly practices has revolutionized our industry. Small and large format printing now includes the use of water-based inks, sustainable paper, and recycling.

In this article, our PRI Graphics printing experts delve into the evolution of sustainable printing, exploring the changes in printing techniques, the types of ink and paper used, and the growing importance of recycling.

Evolution of Printing Techniques

Printing technology has seen unprecedented progress over the past few decades. Traditional solvent-based printing methods have given way to safer digital alternatives that are not only efficient but also more environmentally friendly.

Conventional offset printing was once a dominant force that relied on large amounts of resources, including water, chemicals, and energy.

However, today’s digital printing methods predominantly include more environmentally friendly inkjet printing, laser printing, and UV printing.

For example, digital printing eliminates the need for traditional printing plates. It reduces the amount of paper and ink used and can also involve the use of efficient printing processes.

These are cleaner and safer commercial printing methods with immediate benefits like:

  • Reduced waste production
  • Quicker setup times
  • And the ability to print on demand

The new printing technologies have significantly lowered the carbon footprint associated with commercial printing processes.

Sustainable Printing Companies

The shift towards sustainable printing has also seen the rise of “green” printing companies that prioritize eco-friendly practices.

Many companies in the commercial printing industry have also embraced various certifications that emphasize responsible sourcing and production practices including:

  • Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) – The SGP set standards, advocates best practices, and promotes innovation towards a more accountable and sustainable supply chain.
  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – The FSC is an international organization that works to promote responsible management of the world’s forests.

At PRI Graphics & Signs, we use renewable energy sources and have implemented energy-efficient equipment with a focus on reducing waste generation.

Eco-Friendly Sustainable Inks

UV Gel Inks for commercial printing in Yellow, Cyan, Magenta, and Black.The inks that commercial printers use have also evolved to accommodate both quality and sustainability concerns.

Traditional petroleum-based inks, while effective, posed environmental risks due to volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions and the use of non-renewable resources.

In response, we have seen the development of eco-friendly sustainable ink alternatives that mitigate these issues including:

  • Water-based inks
  • Vegetable-based inks
  • UV Curable Inks

HP commercial printing equipment with latex inks.These eco-friendly inks stand out as a vastly superior alternative to solvent-based ink printing.

Water-Based Inks

The world has embraced the use of water-based inks because they contain fewer hazardous chemicals than traditional solvent-based inks. Water-based inks offer improved print quality, reduced emissions, and are easily recyclable. Moreover, advancements in inkjet technology have led to the creation of aqueous inks, which provide high-resolution prints with minimal environmental impact.

Vegetable-Based Inks

Vegetable-based inks have also gained traction as a more sustainable option. Derived from renewable resources such as soybeans, flaxseed, and canola oil, vegetable-based inks significantly reduce VOC emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. These inks exhibit vibrant colors, fast drying times, and compatibility with various paper types. This has made them a popular choice for environmentally conscious printers.

Canon commercial UV printer equipment.UV Curable Inks

UV-curable inks represent yet another leap forward in sustainable printing. These inks, which cure instantly upon exposure to ultraviolet light, eliminate the need for solvent evaporation and produce minimal VOC emissions. UV ink printing is particularly suited for printing on a variety of non-absorbent substrates, including plastics, metals, glass, wood, and vinyl, further expanding their eco-friendly applications.

Sustainable Paper Choices

The type of paper used in our commercial printing industry also plays a crucial role in determining the ecological impact of the final product. The demand for sustainable paper options has prompted significant advancements in paper manufacturing and sourcing practices.

Recyclable vs Recycled Paper

The use of recyclable and recycled paper are two important considerations.

Recyclable paper continues to require the use of new materials, which involves deforestation and other environmental impacts.

Recycled paper, on the other hand, is produced using materials that have already been used, which reduces the demand for new materials and the associated environmental impacts.

Both recyclable and recycled paper can play a role in sustainable printing. While recyclable paper is an important step towards reducing waste and conserving resources, recycled paper has a lower environmental impact and is often the more sustainable option.

Recycled Paper Products

Recycled paper has become a staple in sustainable printing practices. By utilizing post-consumer waste and paper scraps, recycled paper conserves energy, reduces landfill waste, and minimizes deforestation. The quality of recycled paper has dramatically improved over the years, with options ranging from uncoated to high-gloss finishes, making it suitable for a wide range of printing needs.

Paper Sourced from Responsibly Managed Forests

In addition to recycled paper, there has been a growing emphasis on using paper sourced from responsibly managed forests. Certification programs like the FSC mentioned above ensure that paper products originate from forests that adhere to strict environmental and social standards. These programs contribute to the preservation of biodiversity, the protection of wildlife habitats, and the promotion of sustainable forestry practices.

Alternative Fiber Paper

Paper manufacturers have also explored alternative paper fibers to traditional wood pulp. Agricultural residues, such as wheat straw and sugarcane bagasse have gained attention as sustainable paper sources. These fibers reduce pressure on forests, promote agricultural waste utilization, and contribute to a circular economy.

Rise of Recycling in Printing

The integration of recycling practices within the printing industry has emerged as a vital component of sustainable printing. Recycling not only reduces the environmental impact of printing waste but also conserves valuable resources.

In-House Recycling

Like most responsible printing companies, PRI Graphics & Signs has adopted in-house recycling initiatives. These initiatives allow us to repurpose wastepaper, cardboard, and other materials. By adopting efficient recycling processes, our industry hopes to significantly reduce the volume of waste sent to landfills.

Today’s printed materials are now being designed with recycling in mind. Manufacturers are opting for ink and paper combinations that are more easily recyclable. Water-based and vegetable-based inks, as well as paper with minimal coatings and additives, help to enhance the recyclability of printed products.

Closed Loop Recycling

The concept of closed-loop recycling has also been gaining traction. This approach involves collecting and recycling printed materials to create new paper products, thereby reducing the need for virgin pulp. Closed-loop recycling not only conserves natural resources but also contributes to a circular economy, minimizing waste and promoting sustainability.

Sustainable Printing Summary

The commercial printing industry has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past several decades.

  • We’ve transitioned to eco-friendly printing techniques
  • Switched to the use of more sustainable ink printing
  • Adopted responsible sourcing of paper
  • And embraced sustainable recycling initiatives

Connect with PRI Graphics in Phoenix

PRI Graphics & Signs is proud to have embraced sustainable printing practices and hopefully, have helped to shape a more eco-conscious future towards environmental preservation.

If you would like to learn more about the sustainable printing services we offer here at PRI Graphics & Signs in Phoenix AZ, please contact us online or send us an email.

You can also reach us locally at 602-393-3131 or call our toll-free line at 1-877-409-8889.

About the Author

Picture of Jon Nielson, VP of Sales for PRI Graphics & Signs.

PRI Graphics – Director, Marketing & Brand Management

PRI Graphics is a marketing and design expert who is passionate about new emerging trends in digital media and business strategy. A member of AMA with a PCM® in marketing management, he continues to strengthen his knowledge and skill sets in the marketing ecosystem. Prior to joining PRI, he pursued a career in filmmaking and carries on the passion for brand development.