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Category: Sustainability

Reducing the Environmental Impact of Printing Inks

By Fabrice Peltier, Designer and Eco-design Consultant

drupa Essentials of Print Article No. 13, December 2023

The common factor in many graphic creations, especially in packaging design, is they are usually printed in large quantities to meet consumer demands. However, amid the focus on reducing packaging material consumption, one crucial aspect seems to have been overlooked: the environmental impact of printing inks. Often deemed insignificant, the inks used in graphic creations play a more substantial role than we might realize, both in terms of their ecological implications and economic considerations.

Understanding the composition of ink reveals its complex nature, which consists of several components. The pigments, or colorants, provide the vibrant hues that capture attention and differentiate brands. The vehicle, or binder, acts as the carrier, enabling the ink to adhere to various surfaces effectively. Additionally, adjuvants are used to enhance ink properties, ensuring quick drying times or improved resistance to wear and tear.

Each graphic element, typographic character, shape, and color thoughtfully chosen to convey the intended message represents a specific quantity of ink required for reproduction. Embracing an eco-friendly approach known as eco-inking (Ink Saving Process), designers can craft top-quality graphic designs while concurrently managing ink consumption during the printing process.

The eco-inking approach is best incorporated during the initial stages of design development, providing an intermediary step based on a well-conceived graphic proposal. However, forward-thinking designers may also consider eco-inking as an integral part of the entire design process, even at the conception of a brand’s graphic identity and guidelines.

The core objective of eco-inking is to optimize ink consumption without compromising the quality and visual impact of the creations. It seeks to achieve a harmonious balance between resource efficiency and creativity. Although changes made to ink usage might not be immediately apparent to consumers or readers, successful eco-inking initiatives have demonstrated their potential to bolster a brand’s environmental credibility and resonate positively with the intended target audience.

Moreover, adopting an eco-design philosophy in graphics goes beyond reducing ink consumption; it encompasses a holistic approach to environmental stewardship. By implementing eco-friendly practices in materials selection and production processes, designers can significantly reduce the environmental footprint of their work.

Notably, eco-inking also presents a compelling advantage when it comes to recycling. Graphic papers, extensively used for packaging and marketing materials, undergo a de-inking process during recycling to ensure the purity of the resulting paper. By minimizing the quantities of ink used in printing, eco-inked papers facilitate the de-inking process, reducing the consumption of chemicals and energy required to remove inks from the recycled material. This, in turn, minimizes waste production and contributes to a more sustainable circular economy.

For brand owners aiming to reduce costs, eco inking offers a potential source of savings. Using fewer inks directly impacts expenses, and opting for CMYK – or even CMY – printing can deliver outstanding results at even lower costs and with a reduced environmental impact.

The efficiency of the eco-inking approach has been proven by its practical application. Developed over a decade ago, this innovative technique has been meticulously tested on more than 250 consumer product packages in France. The results have been nothing short of remarkable, consistently achieving an average reduction of ink consumption by 20% to 25% while preserving the visual appeal and message impact of the original creations.

As a passionate advocate for sustainability and ecological responsibility in design, I firmly believe in sharing knowledge and expertise for the collective betterment of our environment. In this spirit, I have chosen to disseminate the eco-inking technique as an open source resource through comprehensive guides and training materials.

I encourage fellow designers, manufacturers, and businesses to embrace eco-inking and unlock the potential for positive change in our creative industries. Feel free to reach out and while you visit drupa, not only assume new substrates, new machinery and new technologies will help you to reduce the environmental impact of packaging – also consider new ways to conceive and produce packaging.

In conclusion, embracing eco-inking is not only a means to enhance the environmental sustainability of graphic creations but also an opportunity for designers to stand as pioneers of change in the ever-evolving landscape of design and consumer consciousness. Together, we can make a meaningful contribution to safeguarding our planet’s resources and ensuring a greener, more promising future for generations to come.

About the Author

Fabrice Peltier is recognized as an expert in packaging design, a pioneer in eco-design, working towards more environmentally responsible packaging solutions. He serves as a consultant and a catalyst for creativity in eco-design for the entire packaging industry, including packaging manufacturers, market players, and eco-organization

He regularly gives conferences and writes for multiple professional journals, including Emballages, a major French publication, where he has been conducting packaging analyses for more than 20 years. Additionally, he is the author of several books including La Révolution de l’emballage première et deuxième période and Pourquoi et comment entrer dans la Révolution.

Beyond his professional work, Fabrice Peltier is an elected local official in his village of Combloux, responsible for waste management, and a member of the SITOM office from Mont Blanc Valley – recycling company.

Peltier can be reached at or on LinkedIn.

Plastic Losing Luster as Packaging Material?

Today came the news the state of Massachusetts is getting tough on the use of plastic packaging. The Environment and Energy Leader website’s article says, “Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey said this week she will sign an executive order prohibiting state agencies from buying single-use plastic bottles. Massachusetts is expected to be the first state in the country to achieve a law-enforced ban on purchasing plastic bottles. In recent years, legislators have attempted to make similar bans without success. Healey made the announcement on Sept. 18, 2023, at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City before a panel on ocean conservation practices.”

The article and the news reminded me of an August 2023 article from Duomedia blog entitled Why Paper is Sending Plastic Packing. This article talks about how some major food and beverage manufacturers have decided the world is a better place with less plastic floating around.

Unilever’s pledge to become the first major consumer goods company to commit to reducing plastic across its portfolio has led to numerous developments including recyclable paper based ice cream tubs and Pot Noodle containers.

Heineken UK created Green Grip, a plastic free and recyclable cardboard topper for multipacks aimed at eliminating all consumer facing secondary plastic from packaged beers and ciders.

Nestle switched all the packaging globally for its Smarties range to recyclable paper as part of its commitment to making 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025. KitKat is now trialing the approach.

Why paper is sending plastic packing

Thanks to Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unsplash for making it possible to use a photograph in this post.

Article Excerpt: Old to New: Remanufacturing in the Print Industry

From Quocirca

Remanufacturing is a key contributor to the circular economy. It prolongs the life and value of a product by recovering and reusing materials from retired products. While circular practices such as recycling programmes (hardware and consumables) and the use of post-consumer recycled (PCR) material are well established in the print industry, the remanufacturing of products is less widely adopted. With sustainability climbing the agenda, and supply chain disruption ongoing, should print manufacturers advance their remanufacturing strategies?

Print and imaging devices have various environmental impacts during manufacture, use, and disposal. These include raw material consumption; polluting in manufacturing; energy consumption in use; and waste generated during end-of-life disposal. However, through a mix of proactivity and response to regulations such as the WEEE Directive, the print industry has worked to embed sustainability principles. For companies at the vanguard of these efforts, this is paying dividends, as buyers become more scrupulous about the lifecycle impacts of the products they purchase.

Circularity in the Print Industry

A circular economy is an alternative to the traditional linear economy model of take-make-dispose. Circular practices reduce resource and energy use by extending the lifetime of products, components and materials. This keeps resources in use for as long as possible, extracting maximum value from them whilst in use, and then recovering or regenerating products and materials from them at the end of life.

Circularity is already well established in the print industry. Products are often designed to reduce environmental impact across their product lifecycle. Key elements include energy efficiency, reliability, repairability and recyclability. Recycling programmes for both hardware and consumables are widespread and in some cases recycling services enable print manufacturers to incorporate components and materials into new products.

Print manufacturers are also increasing the use of recovered materials, such as recycled and recyclable content into new products. For instance, according to HP’s Sustainable Impact 2021 report, HP’s goal is to use 30% post consumer recycled (PCR) content plastic across HP’s personal systems and print product portfolio by 2025. Meanwhile, Lexmark report that their goal is to increase the average post-consumer recycled content plastic in their printer models to 50% by 2025. In FY 21, Epson report that the company began sales of products that contain recycled materials and refurbished equipment.

Click here to read the rest of this article on the Quocirca site.

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