Home' FLEXO Magazine : June 2017 Contents mental positions and help consumers and businesses alike recognize
the need to change certain behaviors to become more sustainable.
Most printers already work under extreme pricing and profitability
pressures and are always looking for ways to be eco-friendly, cut costs
and keep expenses to a minimum. Reducing paper waste, lowering
volatile organic compounds (VOCs) used in the pressroom, and using
eco-f riendly inks are just some of the ways converters are cutting costs
while also becoming more sustainable.
DEFINING A “SUSTAINABLE INK”
A converter’s definition of a successful sustainable ink could be as
simple as how well the ink and materials interact with each other to
synergize the printing process. For example, inks that improve pro-
ductivity on press or reduce waste could be seen in a converter’s eyes
as green. That definition, however, is quite nebulous.
According to the National Association of Printing Ink Manufactur-
ers (NAPIM), a biorenewable ink is derived from tree, plant, insect
and/or animal materials. These can include resins, gums, oils, waxes,
solvents and other polymer building blocks.
NAPIM’s biorenewable content program assigns an index number
that gives an independent verification an ink contains a certain per-
centage of biorenewable content. An index number of 60, for example,
means the ink contains 60 percent biorenewable content.
The three key regulatory terms that are commonly used in the
packaging industry are biodegradable, biorenewable and eco-friendly.
The EPA’s definition of biodegradable is the ability to be broken down
by microorganisms. Paper, wo ol, cotton and foods generally fit this
definition, while plastics such as polyester do not.
Biorenewable materials can include tall oil fatty acids from pine,
cellulose from wood and modified biodegradable products to make
biorenewable materials. Eco-efficiency refers to sustainable materials
management for packaging. Many programs, like the U.S. Department
of Agriculture’s BioPreferred Program, offer incentives for business-
es to increase the usage of renewable agricultural resources in their
To meet all of these regulatory requirements, retailer expectations and
consumer demands, packaging inks are expected to be eco-friendly,
biorenewable and biodegradable.
It is important to note that an ink could be biodegradable, but for the
converted packaging to be considered biodegradable, the printed sub-
strate must also share that trait. Inks that use a very high percentage of
biorenewable materials and are printed on such a substrate could also
be considered compostable, with the appropriate testing.
Inks that meet these requirements should be free or only have trace
levels of heavy metals and reduce VOCs that are released in the atmo-
sphere. They certainly shouldn’t include any EPA designated toxins,
such as mercury, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and chlorofluoro-
PROTECTING THE PRESSROOM
Another concern printers face regarding environmental stewardship
and inks is the management of chemicals of concern (CoCs) within
a pressroom. The EPA contains lists of CoCs that have limitations,
monitoring and reporting requirements. VOCs are examples of
indoor environmental hazards that also need to be controlled. Inks,
coatings, fountain solutions, press washes, plate processing chemicals,
aerosol sprays and conditioners all are potential sources for VOCs.
Total allowable VOCs are regulated regionally and by the EPA, and
each component used in a pressroom has a safety data sheet that lists
specific VOC levels. In North America, the Environmental Protection
Agency uses EPA Method 24 as the lab test protocol required to help
chemical producers report VOC percentages related to printing.
Some ink companies have taken their own eco-efficiency approach by
looking at the environmental impact associated with the manufactur-
ing of their products,
starting with an
analysis of the raw
and fine-tuning man-
to reduce their carbon
One of the techniques
being used by compa-
nies to help under-
impact is a lifecycle
“If a brand takes dedicated steps to vet and study in depth the
environmental practices implemented by its suppliers and partners, it will
be rewarded by consumers.
The biorenewable content program developed
by the NAPIM assigns inks with an index number
to indicate what percentage of the ink contains
JUNE 2017 | FLEXO 83
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