REDUCING THE IMPACT THE PRINTING INDUSTRY HAS ON THE ENVIRONMENT

Iun 10th, 2011 | By | Publicat in categoria Nr. 1 Mai 2011, Revista nr. 1 Mai 2011

Firstly we must understant the impact that the printing process has on the environment. In oreder to do this we must know the printing process.  
The diagram on the left shows these stages. The Paper starts its life in the forests as trees.  They are cut down, and a part of it is used to make paper. The paper is used in the printing industry, being turned into posters, packaging paper and other final goods. A part of these materials can be recycled, and reused to make new paper; this is not only more efficient but also more environmentally friendly.

 Negative environmental impacts occur at three stages in the life cycle of paper, beginning with the harvesting of trees for fibre, continuing with the processing of wood fibre into pulp for making paper, and finishing with the disposal of paper products at the end of their useful life. The above diagram illustrates this life cycle for an optimal context, in which virgin fibre comes from sustainably managed forests and recycling “closes the loop” by re-pulping old paper to manufacture new. Not only does this way of making paper save trees and forests, but it also reduces waste in landfills, thereby eliminating emissions of methane gas from decomposing paper. Unfortunately, this environmentally preferable scenario applies to only some of the paper products manufactured. An increasing but still small amount of virgin fibre comes from sustainably managed forests, and many grades of paper contain far less recycled content than they could.

The solution that the logging companies offer to the shrinking forests is to plant a tree for every one that they cut down.  This seems a good solution, however rather than truly restoring the native forest, these companies usually create monoculture plantations – that is, farms with only one species of tree. Typically, a non-native fast- growing tree species is chosen, diminishing the diversity that once existed. This type of plantation cannot support the plants and animals that once lived in the native forest, and doesn’t represent a true restoration of what was lost.

Monoculture plantations, unlike natural forests, rely heavily on herbicides to eliminate any competitive growth. In addition, plantations rely on chemical-based fertilizers that can damage soil and groundwater. And finally, dead trees aren’t allowed to fall and decompose, completing the natural cycle that keeps soil fertile and sustains the life of other organisms.

When the trees in a monoculture farm reach maturity, they’re all cut down at about the same time, and the process repeats itself. After another application of herbicide, more trees are replanted and additional fertilizer is applied, continuing the run-off of chemicals which harm local soils and water.

The pulp and paper industry is very energy intensive, requires extremely large amounts of water, and often entails the use of toxic chemicals, of which the most problematic are the chlorine compounds used in bleaching pulp to make bright white paper. Although many companies have become more energy efficient, and even generate some of their own power from the wood wastes associated with the manufacturing process, the U.S. government figures show that pulp and paper manufacturers are the fourth largest industrial emitters of greenhouse gases.[1] Further, the pulp and paper industry releases about 212 million tons of hazardous substances into the air and water – amounts comparable to the U.S. primary metal industry – and is ranked as the third largest user of industrial water. These figures highlight the industry’s impact on our environment, despite improvements associated with requirements of the environmental protection laws and with more general efficiency measures.

Chlorine compounds are rated among the most hazardous industrial chemicals in large volume use, affecting both human health and the environment.  By themselves, they have been classified as suspected toxicants to the respiratory and reproductive systems as well as to developmental processes. Their use in the pulp bleaching process also results in the creation of harmful by-products called “organochlorines,” which include dioxins and dioxin-like compounds.[2] These substances are known to cause cancer and are suspected of causing developmental, reproductive, and immune system damage.

If the industry completely replaced chlorine compounds with safer oxygen-based bleaching, then there would be no organochlorine by-products, and wastewater from the bleaching process could be almost completely recovered and reused.[3]

There are several aspects of the printing process that must be taken into account when looking at reducing the carbon foot print. The most obvious environment concern that the printing industry has on the environment is the use of paper.

Almost everyone is aware of recycled paper and the amount of paper recycling is continually rising. When compared to the use of virgin paper, the use of recycled paper substantially reduces water consumption, the use of energy, air pollution, and water pollution.

Many printing companies have begun using recycled or recyclable paper that has been produced specifically for the printing industry from sustainable managed sources such as a paper supplier certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Yet another environmental impact of paper production is the use of chlorine to whiten the paper pulp. Using chlorine produces Effluent, which is highly toxic to marine life. Many printers have begun using Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) or Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) papers.

Secondly, the type of ink used in the printing process. The use of petroleum-based inks is very harmful, as they contain high levels of solvents, which can leach into the water table when they are sent to landfills. Some petroleum-based inks also contain toxic heavy metals.

The use of Soy-Oil based inks also known as Vegetable-Oil based inks is a significant advancement in the reduction of harmful chemicals used in the printing industry. Soy or Vegetable-based inks, unlike Petroleum-based inks, are a simple compound which means they are much more biodegradable and renewable. These inks are much easier to remove from paper in the recycling process, which means a reduction in the amount of energy needed to complete the recycling process.

Soy based inks are much more biodegradable and renewable. They are much easier to remove from paper in the recycling process, which means a reduction in the amount of energy needed to complete the recycling process.

Aqueous coatings and laminates that are very biodegradable like Soy-based inks are being utilized by more printing companies as well. AQ and UV coatings contain very low or trace amounts of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which means less harmful components are used that can damage the atmosphere.

Conventional printing processes have historically resulted in the release of large quantities of Volatile Organic Compounds known as VOCs. VOCs are very hazardous to people, animals and the environment. They contaminate the soil and groundwater and contribute to air pollution. When released into the air, VOCs produce greenhouse gas. By switching to Soy-based inks and Aqueous Coatings, printing companies have been able to almost completely eliminate VOCs.

The increased use of Digital Printing in place of traditional printing methods has had an environmental impact. Many printing companies who implement digital printing technology use Dry Toner Ink which is probably the most environmentally friendly ink being used by printers today. Dry Toner ink can be easily removed from paper, so like soy ink, recycling is much more efficient. Dry Toners inks produce virtually no VOCs and do not require chemicals for clean up.

Many printing companies that provide large format printing services use inkjet UV inks for such printed items as banners, in store displays or trade show displays. Inkjet UV ink is very durable but not very environmentally friendly. Bio-inks are just now reaching the large format market. As they become more readily available, large format printing companies should start using them in place of inkjet UV inks as a less hazardous and polluting alternative.

Another solution to traditional inks are the alcohol based ones. Many printing companies have begun using Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) free or low content dampening solutions during the printing process. This is another way printers are reducing VOC emissions into the environment.

The use of Computer-To-Plate technology, is another example of a new technology that was developed in order to reduce the environmental impact. This process eliminates a chemically intensive stage in the printing process. This technology has allowed printers another option to greatly reduce the use of toxic chemicals and the production of pollutants such as VOCs.

At the moment the printing industry is a very polluting one. However through the use of recycling we can clearly see that the printing industries are changing their attitudes, and with the help of new technologies the companies are becoming more environmentally friendly, reducing their carbon footprint. The printing industries movement towards finding and implementing the least polluting, environmentally friendly materials and methods is a positive and encouraging move; showing us that it is possible to be environmentally friendly and efficient at the same time without compromising the company’s  results.

 

Bibliography

 

[1] US Energy Information Agency at http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/efficiency/carbon_emissions/carbon_mfg.html
[2] http://www.scorecard.org/chemical-profiles/
[3] EPN, State of the Paper Industry, pp. 51-52.

Article Source:

http://EzineArticles.com/5259478

http://www.secret-life.org/paper/paper_environment.php

 

Studenti:  Petrache Alina,  Radulescu Vlad

Profesor /Coordonator : Lect. Univ. Dr. Roată Sorin

 

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