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FLEXO Magazine : March 2008
TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES this area. But, we have seen test- ing which indicates the mass of ink present on most packaging is so small that it does not interfere with substrates that do biode- grade or compost. Wal-Mart has exempted inks, coatings, and adhesives from the scorecard activity at this time. Again, they recognize these materials make up a very small portion of the mass of the entire package. Ink will represent less than 1 percent of the mass of many packages. It makes little sense to expend significant effort and resources to make changes to a material that will have a minimal overall impact on the sustainability of the package. In addition, inks are the visible part of the package the consum- er sees. Inks have a significant impact on the final performance and esthetics of the package. The recycled content of paper can be changed and the consumer will likely not notice the change. A film can be down gauged and the consumer may not see a change. A branded product must be very careful in making a packaging change. If a change is perceived, the consumer may wrongly be- lieve the product has also been changed. For all of these reasons inks may be a high-risk change, and are well down the list of items that will be changed based solely on sustainability. But, this doesn't mean that we can't, or shouldn't, look at what can be done to improve sustainability as it relates to inks and coat- ings. If a printer is interested in addressing the sustainability of inks and coatings, I suggest they look into the following items. Review if water-based inks can be used for your application. 1. Choose inks as low in VOCs, HAPS and SARA reportables as possible. Reduce the ink film thickness and print stronger inks to con- 2. sume fewer materials, and the print will dry with less energy consumption. Good inventory management of press returns will reduce the 3. amount of inks being scrapped. Only order, or make up, enough ink for the job. Too much ink 4. made for a print order often ends up as waste. Adjust setup procedures to 5. minimize the wash materials be- ing used and the inks left in the press being washed out. Monitor additive usage to en- 6. sure inks are not altered in a way that makes them unusable for current or future pressruns. Ensure inks are stored in such 7. a manner where their quality will not be negatively impacted. Used containers should have lids on tight. Inks should be stored in- side at moderate temperatures. Recycle leftover inks. 8. Dispose of all materials in the most environmentally sound manner available. There are other issues that can be looked into, but the key is reducing the amount of materials being used, and the amount of materials being wasted. By doing so we will make our operations and products more sustainable; and we will reduce costs. The Sustainable Packaging Coalition has said, "Currently, there is no such thing as a completely sustainable package." The goal is to incrementally improve sustainability. We can also say there is no such thing as a completely sustainable ink. We need to balance the competing requirement to provide the most sustainable and best performing inks at the most economical cost. Remember, there are responsible ways to use all inks and coat- ings. As suppliers to the printing industry, and as printers in the industry, we can make small incremental improvement individu- ally; and collectively make significant gains in the sustainability of the products we supply. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Impastato is vice president of business development for Flint Group. He has more than 25 years ex- perience in the flexographic industry, and is highly active in numerous printing associations. Presently, he serves on the F TA/FFTA Board of Directors and Board of Trustees. Role of Ink & Coating in Packaging Decorates the package Informs the consumer Be unaffected by the environment and conditions of use during the lifespan of the package Add functionality to the package Ink formulation is always a compromise COST END USE / PRESS PERFORMANCE SUSTAINABILITY Figure 4.