Printing and the Environment
by Guy Broadhurst
June 13, 2007 -- From unusual weather to pollution to threats of a warming planet, the environment grabs headlines almost every day. The general public is conscious of larger global issues, but mostly thinks of the environment in terms of having clean air, water, and reliable food supplies. But as anyone responsible for running a printing operation knows, putting ink or toner on a page raises a host of environmental issues that have a direct impact on a printshop's business. And as regulations tighten around "point pollution" sources in business and industry, print is under pressure to be greener.
As regulations tighten around "point pollution" sources in business and industry, print is under pressure to be greener.
While digital presses do not have some of the environmental hazards of traditional offset presses, they still have issues of their own. All are coming under increased scrutiny and are subject to emerging regulations specifying the types of materials that can be used and what happens to the machine when it reaches the end of its useful life. I'm sure we've all worked places where worn out, used up copiers and laser printers made that one last copy and were unceremoniously rolled out the loading dock and into the Dumpster. Where they wound up is anyone's guess.
But what of all the plastic, steel, aluminum, lead, silver, mercury, and other materials that made up the old box? While that old machine may have wound up in a landfill, today, everything from desktop printers and copiers to high-end production-class presses are often built to recycle--and the newest ones are increasingly compliant with new initiatives such as RoHS.
Coming to a State Near You
RoHS, or Restriction of Hazardous Substances, is a European Union directive of guidelines for the acceptable levels of environmentally unfriendly materials in electronic equipment. Adopted by the EU in 2003, it actually took effect in Europe on July 1, 2006. RoHS is not a law, but a directive restricting the use of six hazardous materials: lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB), and polybrominated diphenylether (PBDE). The restrictions are substantial and the long-term benefits will be very positive for the environment of a world reliant on electronic technologies. And lest you think RoHS is only a European issue, think again. RoHS is coming to a state near you, beginning with California in 2008, and will become a part of most government requests starting in 2008 as well.
Today, everything from desktop printers and copiers to high-end production-class presses are often built to recycle
Not a Fad
For a global company like Océ, complying with the EU directive already benefits customers in companies around the world. In digital print engines, lead, for instance, is being eliminated from screws, soldering, circuit boards and wiring. Over the past 15 years, Océ has made great strides in developing environmental printers. Every part of our continuous feed machines can be re-cycled, and all new cut-sheet products and newer continuous feed devices are completely RoHS compliant. We're also working with our pre- and post-processing partners to make sure we all comply with the new rules. The concern is to be as responsible as possible in all aspects of printing, from the production of toner, drums and belts to the paint we use on our machines. The new VarioPrint 6000 family, for example, uses no developer and all toner lands on the paper so there is no waste toner bottle to be disposed of.
Océ has also been environmentally conscious in the ways it manufactures its products. Although the factory in Poing was built over ten years ago, it remains one of the most advanced manufacturing plants of its kind in the world and still exceeds environmental regulations. Heat is recycled and filtered to heat the factory, reducing emissions and lessening dependence on fossil fuels. Everything possible is routinely recycled.
We all need to think more carefully about the future and how the equipment we use and our own work processes have an effect on the environment.
At a time where former Vice President Al Gore, business leaders such as Richard Branson, and former President Clinton are talking up the need for increased environment stewardship, we all need to think more carefully about the future and how the equipment we use and our own work processes have an effect on the environment. Many of us have children, and we can effect what the world they inherit in ten or twenty or fifty years will be like. What elements of your business could be done in a more environmentally conscious way? What suppliers of equipment, paper and other goods have made a commitment to care about our environment and plans for our children's future? No single company or business can solve the challenges, but together we can all make a difference
I encourage you to make a commitment to do what you can to protect and preserve the environment. We're all on this planet together, it's the only one we have and we in the printing industry need to do our part in keeping it a clean and healthy place.
Give your feedback to Guy. He can be reached at [email protected].