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FLEXO Magazine : April 2010
32 FLEXO april 2010 www.flexography.org The issue of environmental sustainability has become an important topic of discussion in almost every industry this year. Manufacturers in particular are being pushed by consumers, government agencies, and supply chain part- ners to communicate the environmental impacts of their prod- ucts and to implement green practices. The package printing industry has a prominent role to play in adopting sustainable practices throughout the supply chain. In 2009, MacDermid Printing Solutions sought to study the environmental impacts of three different plate processing technologies: digital solvent, digital thermal, and liquid plate- making. But the company wanted to do more than provide a study that recommended one single platemaking technology as the most environmentally friendly solution. One solution isn’t always the best solution, as some plates simply won’t work for certain printers. This may be the case because of graphic requirements, ink compatibility, or available equip- ment footprint. And with today ’s business focus on sustain- ability, certain environmental impact categories may be more important to some businesses than to others. Additionally, there is a need to determine whether specific variables, such as geographic processing location, plate gauge or plate size were material to the decision-making process. MacDermid sought to develop an interactive tool that would enable users to blend customer-specific variables with a traditional lifecycle assessment (LCA). Partnering with The University of Tennessee’s Center for Clean Products1 and its consulting arm, Ecoform2, MacDer- mid set out to develop a unique, spreadsheet-based tool that would calculate the environmental impacts of photopolymer printing plates’ manufacturing and processing technologies. The Environmental Footprint Calculator developed for this project computes a wide range of the products’ environ- mental impacts and converts them to parameters that are easy to visualize, such as the equivalent number of cars on the road. Results can be employed to identify the tradeoffs amongst different platemaking technologies, to select more environmentally friendly processes, and to target opportuni- ties for improvement. METHODOLOGY & SCOPE LCA methodology conducted for this study was derived from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines. 3 Figure 1 shows the complete package printing supply chain, with the red box denoting the processes within Environmental Footprint Calculator a New Tool Evaluates the impact of plate processing Types By Heather Barrett • The Environmental Footprint Calculator computes a wide range of the products’ environmental impacts and converts them to parameters that are easy to visualize, such as the equivalent number of cars on the road. • Users can input their particular plate processing location(s). This is important because the power grids in different countries or regions contain vastly different compositions of natural resources. • Although solvent recycling has become a very ef- ficient industrial process over the years, the use of solvent inevitably expands the environmental impact of platemaking, simply by its presence. a new carbon footprint calculation tool can convey numbers in relation to easier-to-visualize concepts, such as number of cars on the road. TEchNologiEs & TEchNiquEs FLXApril10_mech.indd 32 4/10/10 1:22 AM
Sustainable Winter 2010