Five Steps to a Green Print Shop
Climate-neutral printing benefits the environment and enhances a
company's image. However, a far more effective policy than
offsetting CO2 emissions is avoiding them in the first place. After
all, conserving resources not only benefits the environment - it
also boosts a company's profitability.
Green printing is only possible following careful scrutiny of
the processes employed in the company. Where can material and
energy be saved and how can emissions of substances that are
harmful to the environment be cut? "Unlike climate-neutral
printing, green printing is not a zero sum game with emissions
being offset by corresponding payments. Instead, it offers the
opportunity to streamline processes and initiate ongoing
improvements," explains Eike Frühbrodt, Head of Product
Management Peripheral Systems at Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG.
In order to achieve the maximum benefit with the minimum outlay,
Heidelberg recommends a five-step process.
1. Appoint an environmental officer.
It is essential for responsibilities to be clear. An
environmental officer should therefore be appointed to spearhead
the company's green activities and act as a contact for employees
and print shop management alike.
2. Analyze the current situation.
How much energy and material is used, what levels of
solid waste, waste water and emissions are generated, and where are
they used/generated? What happens to the waste? How can the
consumption of resources be cut? Why are machines switched on the
entire time, even though they are only used for a few hours each
3. Prepare an evaluation.
What are the critical environmental and cost aspects?
Which measures produce results particularly quickly?
4. Establish targets and priorities
- preferably in the form of a plan organized in stages
over several years with milestones for each year (e.g. cutting the
alcohol content from 12 to 6 percent and reducing the amount of
non-recyclable waste by 10 percent in 2009).
5. Monitor targets.
It is important to formulate clear targets so that
progress can be monitored. Environmental protection is not a
one-off task but an ongoing commitment.
How does green printing work in practice?
According to Heidelberg, consumables and power guzzlers
offer the greatest potential in terms of concrete implementation.
Paper is the most environmentally relevant aspect of
printing. This makes it all the more important to use recycled
paper or paper from sustainable forestry (FSC/PEFC-certified ).
Waste paper can be used as startup sheets and waste levels can be
cut significantly with the help of technologies from Heidelberg
such as ink presetting (e.g. Prinect Pressroom Manager) or inline
color measurement (Prinect Inpress Control).
An increasing number of
coatings made from renewable materials are available.
Bio-inks - based on materials such as flax or soy - boast excellent
processing properties, but some need longer to dry. Steady progress
is being made with the development of bio-coatings, but to date
there is no reliable information available on abrasion- resistance
The higher the flash point of an
offset cleaner, the lower the solvent emissions (VOCs) and
thus the impact on the environment. Heidelberg recommends a flash
point of over 55°C so that hardly any solvent evaporates, even
with an open canister. All Heidelberg equipment also offers the
alternative of operating with high-boiling substances or bio-washup
solutions made from renewable vegetable oil esters.
Alcohol-free printing lowers VOC emissions, too, but it
places greater demands on press operators and the quality of
consumables, while also making it more difficult to maintain the
press and keep it clean. If print shops are not prepared to
eliminate alcohol altogether, Heidelberg recommends using 3 percent
alcohol to achieve an optimum balance between emissions and paper
Up to 50 percent less dust is generated if
powder with a uniform grain size is used because grains of
the same size maintain better contact with the sheet.
Air conditioning and
generating compressed air are two key power guzzlers. It is
therefore worth considering options such as lowering the level of
compressed air in the print shop's central compressors or, instead
of one large compressor in continuous operation, using two smaller
compressors and only switching one of them on as and when required
or equipping it with a frequency control mechanism.
"The best thing is to contact an energy consultant," advises
environmental expert Frühbrodt. "He will analyze the energy
consumption and make concrete suggestions for improvements,"
Frühbrodt continues. These may include using energy-saving
lamps, switching from CRT to LCD monitors, or cutting energy
consumption by using waste heat from presses or ensuring effective
Environmental protection pays off
Given that state support is available in many countries to
cover the costs of obtaining advice from environmental consultants
and implementing environmental measures, the payback period for
most environmental projects is just two years. What's more,
companies can then advertise their new green credentials. "Print
shops should publicize their environmental protection activities by
means of brochures, labels or events and use print samples to make
customers aware of the environmentally friendly printing options
available. This provides the opportunity to access new customer
groups and stand out on the market," sums up Frühbrodt.
• Certified papers -
leveraging business opportunities
• For examples of green printing, see (
winners of the ECO Printing Award