Ink manufacturing has come a long way over the past decade. However, the big question is whether we can see any signs of “green” printing? As ink is used in almost every industry, we must conclude that ink is also a significant contributor to several environmental issues. Let’s explore the efforts that have been made to reduce the impact of ink manufacturing on the environment:
Improvements in technology
There’s been a tremendous advance in technology over the past few years. In 2018, vegetable, water or eco solvent ink can print just as well as petroleum-based inks. Using these alternative eco-friendly ink options is indeed kinder to the environment.
Water-less ink technology has also helped to reduce the burden on the environment. The textile industry, for example, uses a staggering amount of water to aid in the ink drying process, which results in significant levels of water pollution. So, using water-less ink technology can help combat the issue of water pollution.
But, it’s important to highlight that improvements in technology go much further than advancements in ink formulations:
First, an increasing number of eco-friendly printers are available to buy on the market in 2018. These printers include a variety of energy-saving power modes, with some, said to use up to 96% less energy than a traditional printer. Additionally, advancements in economical printing technology are helping to reduce the level of ink used per job.
Second, a more substantial number of toners are being recycled. As part of their environmental commitments, most popular printer manufacturing brands now offer a toner collection recycling scheme.
A key factor to environmental progress in ink manufacturing is the economic market. Guerino Sacripante explains that the price of oil can have a significant effect on ink production. If the price of oil is high, companies are incentivised to look for alternative bio-solutions to produce ink. Whereas, if the price of oil is low, companies find that it makes financial sense to manufacture ink from toxic petrochemical solvents.
We must also consider the effect that industry price wars have on the manufacturing landscape. In specific ink markets, the competition is so fierce that companies will do their best to reduce manufacturing costs. So, bottom line: if it’s cheaper to manufacture ink using non-sustainable chemicals, then so be it!
That’s when the government needs to step in and ensure that sustainable practices are carried out, despite the economic pressures. Luckily for us and the planet, you can see below some of the initiatives that governments have implemented to reduce the harm of ink manufacturing on the environment.
The government can have a considerable influence on the uptake of sustainable ink production practices in the industry.
For example, the Chinese government introduced a new environmental tax policy in January of 2018, which incentivises local authorities to do a better job at enforcing the policy. By allowing local authorities to set their own environmental tax rates and keep the full tax income, the government is hoping that local authorities will be more inclined to impose the policy.
As it turns out, regional councils have used the new policy as a way of encouraging or discouraging manufacturing growth and levels of pollution. For example, Beijing has some of the highest levels of air pollution in the country, yet also has the highest environmental tax rate in China. On the other hand, specific regions have opted for a low tax rate to entice manufacturing investments in the area.
What’s more, the Chinese government is rewarding manufacturing firms with a 25% tax reduction if they reduce their pollution by 30%-49%.
So, as we can see from the Chinese efforts: governments can be an excellent catalyst for environmental change if they can nudge the industry in the right direction.
Brands are increasingly listening to the demands of their customers. As environmental issues become more mainstream, so are customers that request eco-friendly product options.
Society’s shift in perspective is pressuring brands to review their environmental practices, including those of their partners and suppliers.
Some companies, especially in the food industry, have implemented an all-natural packing initiative for their products, which strictly uses recycled paper and bio-renewable or water-based inks.
We can see that customer demand can influence corporate behaviour. Companies are aware that a customer’s buying decision is not controlled by price alone. So, the more pressure that we put on the ink manufacturing industry to change, the sooner the change will happen.
Is the ink industry more environmentally friendly in 2018? The answer would be: yes and no. There is undoubtedly a lot of evidence that things are moving in the right direction and a lot of progress has been made. But, we can also see that despite the advancements in ink technologies, numerous other factors influence ink manufacturing behaviour. Whether it’s government policies, economic markets or brand awareness, we can agree that there is still much to be done for the sake of our planet.