Printing is the corner stone of British design, although tightly competitive with more digital concepts. Printing has several factors that makes it potentially environmentally damaging. Firstly its paper, lumber and deforestation to fuel the paper industries is a well documented problem. Secondly the amount of electricity thats needed to run the printers is colossal, although printers have gotten better with this due to EU standards, the machinery still requires a lot of electricity compared to digital practices. Thirdly, some of the coatings we place on the paper isn’t always recyclable and can often be damaging to the environment due to plastic and solvents being used. Lastly we have a fairly wasteful society with an awful lot of paper printed items not being read and just ending up in the bin.
I myself work in a Medical marketing company, creating any and all marketing materials for several brands. In our effort to gauge the system and to gauge what others are doing, we have often found that many of the professionals we deal with don’t even read some of the materials we send, often taking the sample out and throwing the rest in the bin. When we consider this then can be times 10,000+ times we can see an awful a lot of resources have been lost on a largely inefficient system that many don’t engage with. In addition to this, as i freelance on the side i have found that many of my clients don’t ever consider the environment at all and will always want the printing and printing elements, and even when encouraged will look to price first rather than considering the damage they could be saving.
The are many scources of information that do talk about the damage done by the printing industry, Cartridge world speaks in depth about the issue…
“Paper is major source of waste – in 2008, paper accounted for over 12,500 tonnes of waste in the UK! Carelessly discarded documents, ignored and unnecessary memos, misprints…it’s easy to see where such an astronomical figure comes from.”
“The production of paper also leads to a significant amount of pollution, both atmospheric and water-based. Paper mills frequently release harmful gases such as CO2 and Nitrogen Dioxide into the atmosphere when producing, while water plays a big part in the pulping process. The waste water can find itself in fresh water sources, thus contributing to water pollution.”
“You’re bound to have heard various horror stories regarding the toxicity of printer inks but in truth, printer ink can only cause you harm if you happen to ingest it (which is quite difficult to do by accident!). However, there are chemicals in printer inks that can be harmful to the environmental, in addition to petroleum oil and non-biodegradable plastic casing found in some ink and toner cartridges.
The negative effects of simply chucking away an old ink or toner cartridge are plentiful; the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and heavy metals in ink can lead to soil and even water pollution when left in landfill, while plastic can take thousands of years to degrade and even then pollute soil.”
When we couple this information with the fact that we often consider the fact that actually materials like flyers have a very low success rate, then arent we just being wasteful and damaging by not considering the environment first?
Seeing and reading the damage the printing industry is coursing does inspire me to do more as a designer. Designers possibly use some of the least environmentally friendly printing methods and stocks compared to commercial printing, if you consider the fact that a normal ream of paper is part recycled paper and part fresh but a roll of paper in a printers can often be pure or at the very least only slightly recycled. In my company we do a lot of printed materials which we know will often be thrown away, with low success rates and lack of digital drive, we can often lose thousands of prints at a single event alone, i dread to think how many sample boxes we send out just get thrown.
Reading into this i want to start investigating more green designing techniques and how i can change my own design mentality to start putting the environment first.