The term eco-friendly is quickly becoming a conundrum. Many media products are considered environmentally safe, but based on what definition? The industry is weary of "greenwashing." Slowly manufacturers are beginning to construct a concrete idea of what eco-friendly media is—for themselves and PSPs.
"Take into consideration, do we determine what an eco-friendly product is by what it consists of or by the eco-friendly practices that manufacture it?" cautions Patti Williams, analyst, I.T. Strategies.
The Entire Lifecycle
From most manufacturers, the definition of eco-friendly media is outlined in three parts—how the fabric is made, what it is made of, and how it is disposed. "Eco-friendly media is free of harmful substances and easily disposed of without harm to the environment. Of equal importance, the processing standards must meet stringent environmental safeguards necessary to protect our earth, water, and air," shares Jeff Sanders, digital sales, Pacific Coast Fabrics, Inc.
"Eco-friendly media should be seen as media whose lifecycle will not adversely impact the environment. Lifecycle includes material production and manufacturing throughout post-usage and disposal," explains Dean Comstock, sales manager, Dickson Coatings.
LexJet Corporation defines eco-friendly media by its sustainability. "In other words, how will that product be used over its entire lifecycle. Will it be manufactured and thrown away after use, or be reused and recycled? Sustainability is best represented by the three Rs—reduce, reuse, and recycle," shares Jeff Leto, director of product line management, LexJet.
Materials and Mills
Some characterize eco-friendly media as any substrate containing at least 30 percent recycled materials. Others suggest their product is eco-friendly because it contains renewable plant life. Or media may be considered green if it doesn’t contain any heavy metals, PVC resins, phthalates, or fungicides. Manufacturers based in Europe or companies who have mills in Europe base definitions on government regulations.
3P InkJet Textiles AG measures their textiles’ eco-friendliness with the European environmental management system ISO 14001. The ISO 14000 series of standards is available to any organization that wishes to maintain an environmentally friendly management system. To qualify, a company must have an environmental policy, engage in eco-friendly activities, create green products, and be settled in a location that is considered environmentally friendly. "Our production includes a certified manufacturing process that avoids atmospheric and environmental pollution," explains Markus Fortmeier, sales manager, 3P.
In the Future
As more PSPs and their customers demand a concrete definition of eco-friendly media, qualifications determining what media consists of, how it is made, and how it will end its lifecycle will be solidified. "I think the standards for what is eco-friendly will become more specific as time goes on. The ultimate goal is a product that is carbon neutral, non-polluting, and fully recyclable or biodegradable," explains Cyrus Gilman, VP, The Gilman Brothers Company.
Next week read about a variety of eco-friendly media currently available from the companies mentioned above and more.
Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, Why Go Eco?