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FLEXO Magazine : November 2010
The Great Plate Debate - September 2010 2 Next, if you consider the plate element of the overall picture in more detail, the photopolymer plate itself is the more significant contributor to environmental impact. FIGURE 2 indicates that raw materials comprise about 75% of a plate's environmental impact; plate processing comprises about 25% or less. From this data, upon which the published studies both generally agreed, it is clear that the next best way to have a positive environmental impact is simply to use fewer plates. It might seem glaringly obvious, but it's undeniably true. Not only does using fewer plates reduce the impact from the manufacture of the photopolymer itself, but one less plate used is one less plate processed. And every plate that is eliminated reduces: • Mounting tape • Mounting time • Cylinder / Sleeve cleaning • Disposal costs • Ink • Setup waste Figure 2: Plates vs. Plate Processing Plate Processing Plate Ink and Solvent Electricity Substrate Non-renewble Energy & Greenhouse Gases Dryer Credits and Recycling The plate itself contributes significantly more to the non-renewable energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions than the plate processing component. Plate Reduction in the actual number of plates made is the next biggest contribution that a flexo plate can make to improve sustainability. So if the plate technology you choose has the power to reduce the actual number of plates you make per job,it has the power to make a far bigger impact on sustainability than simply choosing one processing method over another. So Where Does That Leave Plate Processing? Putting it all in perspective From the data that we see above and the observations we read in published studies we learn that the whole plate and platemaking element contributes less than 1% of the total non-renewable energy used in the flexo printing process; and only about one quarter of that 1% is the plate processing element. So, while every impact counts, it is important to put into perspective that The Great Plate Debate between solvent and thermal processing is focused on making small changes to one quarter of 1% of the total impact. Let's compare that to the impact that you could make by reducing on-press waste by 25%. The study published by DuPont quotes a figure of 8% scrap for flexo printing. That scrap comprises both substrate and ink. If we study Figure 1 again it would be reasonable to conclude that: • Overall ink and substrate accounts for about 75% of the non-renewable energy produced in the flexo printing process. • If 8% of that is scrap, then scrap ink and substrate must contribute about 6% of the non-renewable energy used. • If you can reduce that scrap by 25% you can logically impact 1.5% of the total Compare the 1.5% that can be impacted by waste reduction to the fraction of one quarter of 1% that can be impacted by plate processing choice, and you can start to see the benefit of considering the big picture. For maximum impact on sustainability choose a flexo plate based on its power to reduce on-press waste and the number of plates per job.
Sustainable Fall 2010