By Cassandra Balentine
As concerns for natural resources increase, many organizations evaluate their inner eco consciences. When it comes to the print industry, many sustainable considerations are available and adopted by print buyers, print providers, and equipment and consumable manufacturers.
Recyclability is one factor print service providers (PSPs) consider when looking for environmental media options. Marci Y. Kinter, immediate past chair, board member, The Sustainable Green Printing Partnership/VP, government and business information, Specialty Graphic Imaging Association, prefers to avoid marketing buzzwords such as eco-friendly and instead refers to sustainable options as “alternative media.”
The phrase alone suggests that these options are not yet widely available. Additionally, to ensure sustainability, it is important to qualify what is truly considered recyclable. This proves to be an ongoing challenge for the entire supply chain. A print buyer seeking an environmental media option needs to know they can understand a vendor’s marketing claims. Print suppliers also need this assurance when recommending media to eco-conscious buyers, and manufacturers and distributors rely on the availability of guidelines in order to meet them, or strive to do so.
The “Green” Guides
For the purpose of this article, we looked into the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, effective October 12, 2012. The document addresses several environmental marketing claims, including compostable, degradable, free-of, non-toxic, recyclability, and recycled content. Here, we focus on recyclability.
According to the Guides, “The final Guides, like the 1998 Guides, advise marketers to qualify recyclable claims when recycling facilities are not available to a ‘substantial majority’ of consumers or communities where a product is sold.” FTC clarifies substantial majority in this context as at least 60 percent.
The Guides also emphasize that the lower the levels of access to appropriate facilities, the more strongly the marketer should emphasize the limited availability of recycling for the product.
While many media manufacturers can confidently claim their media is recyclable based on its content, they cannot always assure that proper recycling facilities in the communities in which their products are sold do exist and will be able to accept and properly recycle these items to comply with FTC guidelines.
“It’s no longer enough to say you can recycle media, now the manufacturer is going to have to see if recycling is available,” says Kinter. “Burden of proof should be put on the manufacturer or whoever is going to make the claim,” she suggests.
In addition to the FTC guidelines, many other environmental certifications are available, which were not used for this particular article on recyclable media. It is also important to note that the FTC guidelines are just that, guides, not regulations or policies. However, they provide a benchmark that can at least offer a differentiator for marketers of qualifying media and set a standard for buyers.
The spotlight on environmental consciousness for the printing is increasingly brighter, as evident from moves to less volatile inks, LED lamps that consume less energy, and media composed of recycled or recyclable content. Recyclable solutions are suited for a range of applications, but there is a prevalent demand by print buyers in the retail and point of purchase (POP) sector. As alternative media options grow, media manufacturers and suppliers provide solutions that are easily recyclable, either through take-back programs or standard and local recycling facilities.
“Responsible stewardship is something we take very seriously,” comments Brian Junyor, marketing technology, S-One Holdings Corporation. S-One, through its subsidiary company Brand Management Group, is the exclusive business partner for Hewlett Packard (HP) sign and display large format printing materials. HP’s large format media take-back program provides PSPs with the opportunity to return recyclable materials after use.
According to Junyor, the program was originally offered for the return of HP commercial and industrial signage media, but the program now expands to include recyclable HP graphics and technical media from banner and sign materials to films and backlit materials.
“Our state-of-the-art process ensures that the plastics used in these printing materials are recycled in a way that conserves resources,” he adds.
HP’s take-back program is a “free and convenient return and recycling program that makes it easy for customers to return HP recyclable media,” says Junyor.
To take advantage, customers pack up eligible printing materials and HP picks up the shipping expense and handles sorting and recycling.
The service is open to customers in North America and Europe and accepts a variety of HP sign and display printing materials including HP HDPE Reinforced Banner; HP Double-sided HDPE Reinforced Banner; HP Everyday Matte Polypropylene, 3-in Core; HP Backlit Polyester Film; HP Light Textile Display Banner; and HP Dupont Tyvek Banner. Within its HP graphics and technical printing materials portfolio HP Durable Banner with Dupont Tyvek, HP Clear Film, HP Matte Film, HP Premium Vivid Color Backlit Film, HP Premium Matte Polypropylene, and HP Everyday Matte Polypropylene are accepted.
Visual Magnetics LP also offers a recycling program for its MagnaMedia. According to the company, all of its U.S. customers have access, and all they need to do is ship materials back to Visual Magnetics to participate in the program. Its U.S. customers make up about 60 percent of its total global customer base.
Beyond take-back programs, others rely on local recycling facilities as options for recycling media. This is where the FTC guidelines really come into play.
Christian Nole, marketing coordinator, Katz Americas, notes that for his company, it has not been difficult to meet the FTC guidelines for recyclable materials. “The Katz Display Board product line is in a unique position; being an all-natural product, Katz Display Board can be recycled in standard blue bin and paper recycling sources. This makes it much easier and readily available to recycle our product at end of the lifecycle.”
Katz Display Board is an eco-friendly, paper-based rigid substrate. “Being a sustainable product line, a large focus of ours is ensuring products remain 100 percent recyclable and biodegradable,” says Nole. “Our board is produced using pre-consumer recycled content and finished with a 96 white point finish on both sides. Currently, we offer three thicknesses with standard wide format sheet sizes and custom sheeting upon request.”
Junyor says several HP large format printing materials can be recycled through commonly available recycling programs, including HP Photo-realistic Poster Paper; HP White Satin Poster Paper; HP Coated Paper, 3-in Core; HP Universal Coated Paper, 3-in Core; HP Heavyweight Coated Paper, 3-in Core; and HP Super Heavyweight Plus Matte Paper, 3-in Core.
Roland DGA Corporation provides several products that meet FTC guidelines, including its paper media offering, such as its ESM-SGP3 Solvent Glossy Paper and ESM-PMP4 Paparazzi Premium Matte Paper, which can be printed using its GREENGUARD gold certified Eco-Sol MAX and Eco-Sol MAX 2 inks. DSM-RTP Roland Texart Sublimation Transfer Paper is also recyclable. Once the transfer process is complete, users can recycle the paper with any remaining ink on it.
Christopher McGovern, EVP of business development, Berger Textiles, suggests that in the past, it was difficult to make an article green. However, as technology and knowledge increase, the issue dissolves.
Berger Textiles provides Endutex’s Recytex Collection. Recytex is Oeko-Tex certified and made out of recycled plastic bottles.
The Gilman Brothers Company offers its new Infinity and Eaglecell products, which the company says are recyclable to FTC guidelines.
Infinity is a 100 percent styrene, bendable board that prints flat and transforms into three-dimensional displays. Eaglecell is a honeycomb graphic board that is manufactured from 100 percent, fully recyclable paper core and surface liners.
“Meeting guidelines for recyclable products is a notable effort, but we’re ultimately still looking at synthetics and toxins in media and a level of fuel/energy consumption to provide all of this,” says Matt Devlin, VP business development, Natural AdCampaign Inc.
Natural AdCampaign offers its NatureWoven line of products, which Devlin says is 100 percent natural, biodegradable, and compostable.
The company focuses on sustainable raw materials—such as cotton, jute, and plant-based cellulose—that are “ultimately manufactured in a way that retains their biodegradability and computability characteristics—print and all—when used with UV, screen, and latex processes,” he continues.
Many print providers—as well as their buyers—look to recyclable media for sustainability reasons. “Let’s face it, the print industry as a whole is huge. Print providers choose recyclable materials to reduce the massive ecological footprint the print industry has on the world,” says Nole. “If a print media can be remanufactured at the end of life rather than find itself in a landfill, everyone wins. Who wouldn’t want to be in favor of that?”
Junyor says recyclable media helps tip the scale when looking at comparable products. “We all want to do our part to support sustainable solutions. When they are easy and cost effective for our customers to implement—it’s a simple choice.”
Devlin suggests the reasoning behind PSP demand for recyclable media is simple. “Customers specify media, PSPs respond. Other factors I’ve heard of—they’re accustomed to using it and getting it at a good price, so why wouldn’t they? Much of it is good stuff.”
Besides environmental benefits, the use of recyclable media can also provide a monetary advantage. PSPs look at recyclable media options for many reasons including differentiation over competition, clientele, and the company’s vision.
“In addition to wanting to be socially responsible themselves, those print providers that choose recyclable media do so because their clients request it. They know that if they don’t offer these types of media, they risk losing business,” says Lily Hunter, product manager, textiles and consumables, Roland.
Nole says Katz has found that eco-conscious clients selecting recyclable materials tend to want a sustainable product that carries more weight than just being recyclable. “Often customers want a print media that is naturally produced, manufactured using green initiatives, made with recycled content, and biodegradable,” he suggests.
Looking forward, Naomi Mukai, marketing manager, Visual Magnetics, reports that in the company’s survey of printers, brands, and sales channels conducted last year, 35 percent noted that it was part of their company strategy to source eco-friendly whenever possible. “We see the demand for recyclable media increasing, since many companies are now realizing the long-term cost savings of changing over to eco-friendly materials and sustainable business practices,” she predicts.
In the foreseeable future, these demands are expected to continue, along with regulations to help define and manage the market. Hunter says that as legal requirements change and increase, there is a growing demand for recyclable media and green products in general.
Junyor adds that sustainability is as important as recyclability. “HP is committed to responsible stewardship and partners with organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification to ensure our materials are sourced and produced using methods that promote sustainable forest management worldwide.”
“We anticipate that the demand will continue to increase; recycled material is established as valuable commodities that provide an economic opportunity for both new and exciting products,” he adds.
Nole reports a trend toward the use of greener, more sustainable products in wide format print. “Recyclable print mediums are an easy way for printers and clients to make the transition into sustainability. I would predict a continued trend towards increased demand for recyclable products, as well as other eco-friendly products, in print.”
Cost and Performance
In many cases, Hunter says you’ll have to dig deeper into your pockets for environmentally friendly media products and inks. Of course, she points out, prices depend on a number of other variables besides eco-friendliness and recyclability, including the material type, special coatings, and other features and qualities.”
Cost is a valid concern. McGovern suggests that while the ability to produce eco-friendly media has gotten easier, it is now a challenge of competitive pricing. “The issue is providing a 100 percent recyclable product that is also at the price point retail roll outs accept. The green aspect is huge, but at the same time it has to be a quality product at an acceptable price point.”
He sees a shift in fabric used in retail POP as the economy continues to improve, allowing for increasing marketing budgets.
Mukai comments that in Visual Magnetics’ survey it found that although recyclability was the most important sustainable product feature, cost played the biggest factor in decision making by customers. “In most regions of the U.S., customers are willing to pay up to five percent more for eco-friendly materials,” she states.
She adds that for some clients, meeting external and internal sustainability goals is worth the higher cost that can be associated with recyclable or eco-friendly materials.
Junyor doesn’t see a significant cost difference for recyclable materials when they are produced holistically.
In addition to cost and recyclability, PSPs also demand versatility and durability. “It is great to have eco-friendly media, but if it doesn’t have a relevant use in a current application, it is useless,” says McGovern. In conjunction with this is the look of the material. “If this product is not the look the customer has in mind, it becomes moot,” he adds.
As existing technologies improve and new innovations emerge, Hunter suggests that many recyclable products are becoming just as durable as non-recyclable. “There’s still room for improvement, but eco-friendly products are getting better when it comes to performance and durability.”
Nole comments that while Katz can’t speak for all recyclable media, its product was “designed to outlast and outperform” its composite and non-recyclable competitors in the retail hanging signage setting. “We have found that our products hang straight without warping for longer periods of time, all while maintaining a premium quality print finish.”
Devlin says Natural AdCampaign’s media provides an indoor and outdoor lifecycle of approximately 12 months. “For a retail campaign and most events, that’s more than adequate. Well-preserved banners and posters at our offices are currently well over four years old and still look new,” he adds.
The Eco of it All
Recyclability is just one matter in the overarching category of eco-friendly media. Products that meet FTC guidelines for recyclable claims are a subset of that.
The future holds promise for recyclable media. “We think the demand will be for clarifying what recyclable really is and what it really means,” adds Devlin.
It is important to understand that there are different levels of environmental friendliness. “Some customers demand a totally green solution, while others look for products that offer eco-friendly qualities at a lower price,” recommends Hunter.
Eco-friendly considerations are of growing concern for many PSPs. Digital Output will continue to report on the latest guidelines and certifications.
May2015, Digital Output