Many media manufacturers agree that brand owners, print service providers (PSPs), and consumers continue to seek environmentally responsible rigid media substrates. By supplying media that aligns with the eco-conscious message brand owners wish to portray, PSPs offer a service that goes beyond the basics. There are many products available for PSPs looking to go “green” and to capitalize on the trend towards sustainability.
Environmental Options Enter the Space
Today’s graphic designers and retail display fabricators are encouraged to form partnerships with suppliers focused on green initiatives. “Brand owners are constantly looking for new ways to support their message and increase market share,” says Tim Bolton, director of business development, Hexacomb, a subsidiary of Boise, Inc.
To meet the needs of major retailers seeking displays that utilize rigid substrates and print media that is recyclable, 3A Composites USA recently introduced FiberMate—a material capable of being channeled into wood and paper recycling streams. This new media is utilized in a number of applications, including the creation of medium-term point of purchase (POP) displays, interior signage, and exhibits/kiosks. It may also be used in long-term framing applications.
FiberMate is a 100 percent recyclable wood fiber panel available in 49x97-inch sheets. The graphic display boards are finished with Eco-Finish, a white, water-based UV print coating on both sides. It is recyclable in either wood or paper waste streams depending on local community resources and provided that printing inks, mounting, or other finishing materials applied to the media are also recyclable. FiberMate with Eco-Finish is California Air Resource Board compliant.
Unlike LED signage, the photoluminescent rigid substrates American Permalight, Inc. produces do not require any electricity. “Photoluminescent rigid substrates are non-radioactive and self-illuminate following activation by ambient lighting,” explains Marina Batzke, GM, American Permalight. “Recycling is easy—users simply dispose of the plastic in standard plastic recycling processes.”
A latest rigid substrate addition to the American Permalight product line is photoluminescent aluminum. “These 39x47-inch sheets provide the durability of metal, combined with a soft yellow glow surface and are ideal in LEED building signage projects where plastics are avoided,” states Batzke. Photoluminescent aluminum rigid substrate signage looks similar to rigid PVC, but with less environmental impact.
Hexacomb launches Falconboard Print All White graphic display board, which is an all white version of the original Falconboard Print with a kraft clay-coated liner and an engineered kraft paper core. Falconboard Print All White is manufactured with 20 percent post-consumer recycled fibers and is recyclable. It features a bleached white core and liner and is available in thicknesses ranging from one-fourth to four inches, up to 60 inches wide and 120 inches long.
The introduction is driven by higher end applications that prefer a clean white edge. This new version eliminates the brown-colored core so that the structure does not detract from the brand’s visual appeal or graphic presentation. Falconboard Print All White is an environmentally responsible material that addresses the marketing needs of high-end brand owners.
Ideal applications for Falconboard include POP displays and other interior signage. It also provides an alternative to MDF board, which is more expensive to fabricate, heavier weight, and unlike Falconboard, traditionally goes into the landfill after it has exhausted its lifecycle.
Laminators Inc. offers a recycled paper composite board—Omega TerraMax, which features two faces made from 100 percent virgin fiber from managed, renewable forests and a honeycomb core composed of 100 percent recycled paper. Specifically designed for direct digital printing, Omega TerraMax is lightweight and easy to handle.
Omega TerraMax and other paper composite boards are increasing in popularity in the event and trade show industries where temporary signage is typically required for way finding signs and exhibits. “At the conclusion of an event, signs are recycled on location, which eliminates the need to ship them back to their original space,” notes Jessica Olff, marketing communications manager, Laminators.
As a paper-based manufacturer, all of Lamitech, Inc.’s products are recyclable, including the new Ultra Bright White, which is made of 100 percent recyclable material. “As retailers become more involved and concerned about the lifecycle of their substrates, paper-based products are gaining popularity in the retail environment,” shares Andrew Londergan, national sales, Lamitech. “It has gone full circle since paper and paperboard signs are recycled within a standard waste stream and there is no need for expensive sorting labor or equipment.”
Xanita International manufactures a corrugated fiberboard called X-Board, which is a direct printable solution for those who want a lightweight customizable solution. It is made from up to 100 percent post-consumer waste and is up to 100 percent recyclable after use. It contains no wax or volatile organic compounds.
X-Board is used most often for signage, construction, store fitting, display stands, exhibition stands, and furniture. The largest demand comes from the fast-moving consumer goods industry where X-Board is used for point of sale stands. Shelving, bulkheads, and typical flat signage are also applications frequently applied to X-Board.
The exhibition industry recently took notice of X-Board when the Cape Wine trade show in South Africa used it to exhibit 300 free-standing exhibition stands. “The owners enjoyed the fact that the stands were re-usable and recyclable after their useful life,” says Lee Clevenger, product applications specialist, Parallax Digital.
Clevenger notices three main eco-friendly trends in the space—eco-exhibitions, eco-furniture, and eco-displays. “Eco-exhibitions are taking place around the world, with each one going a little greener,” he says.
Custom designed, printed, and branded eco-furniture is also possible with products such as X-Board due to its strength-to-weight ratio and direct printability. Xanita, for example, has produced tables, barstools, children’s furniture, couches, chairs, and bookshelves.
Tapping into the Trend
While Olff believes there is a place for eco-friendly rigid substrates in the marketplace and understands the trend’s growth, she does not see it completely replacing all of the rigid substrates available today. “For instance, most of Laminators’ exterior products with aluminum faces contain some recycled content, but the products themselves are not recyclable,” she shares. “We do believe that over time, the components of rigid substrates will become more eco-friendly.”
Jerry White, Jr., national sales manager graphics division, Kommerling USA, Inc., does not think it is likely in the PVC sheet market for media to become completely eco-friendly, as it is difficult to find outlets to recycle this material after it has used its value.
Marcus Tam, sales executive, Eastsign International Ltd., agrees that due to the high cost associated with eco-friendly options, and because there is no foreseeable substitute to replace all outdoor rigid substrates, it is not likely all media will shift to eco-friendly in the near future.
“The higher cost of producing eco-friendly plastics is inhibiting its true growth potential,” adds Damian Mannino, marketing specialist, Tekra Corporation.
On the other hand, Londergan believes that eventually all rigid substrates will have to be eco-friendly. “A retailer, for example, does not want to be responsible for an in-store print campaign that runs for thirty days to then have the substrate end up in a landfill forever,” he states. “This theory started in the packaging side of retail and is now developing in the operation side. Not only does it help reduce the overall footprint on the planet, but it also appeals to business basics.”
As the market continues to become more educated and informed, the shift towards sustainability means that manufacturers and the products offered by PSPs must meet the demand. There is a push to understand exactly how and how much of a product is recyclable. This is achievable as the industry learns more about the lifecycles of certain components. While the overall trend, guided by LEED and other green initiatives, leans towards sustainability, different projects require different materials. At this point it is still beneficial to present customers with choices ranging from 100 percent eco-friendly to partially.
Click here to read part one of this exclusive online series, Rigid Substrates Released.