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How Environmentally Friendly Is Large Format Printing?

While print suppliers corresponding to PressOn make use of a complete spectrum of colors each day, there’s a definite feeling that inexperienced is turning into – and has develop into – the preferred. We’re not talking a few Pantone Color Of The Yr here, we’re talking about sustainability.

It’s exhausting to deny that sustainability has develop into something of a buzzword in recent times, and for good purpose. With the sheer scale of the influence of our emissions now apparent, individuals and businesses worldwide are realising that we need to shape up with regards to defending the surroundings.

The jury is not out, and the analysis appears conclusive: if we’re going to avert a worldwide climate catastrophe, we’re going to wish to chop our emissions to zero by 2050. Meaning everybody, and every industry, must be on board – and that includes print. Luckily, it seems to be just like the industry is shaping up relating to environmental duty – and while we’re definitely not there yet, issues are beginning to look slightly greener on the earth of vast format… So precisely how environmentally pleasant is giant format printing?

Let’s explore…

Why does sustainability matter?

A full rationalization of the overall importance of our planet’s well being is probably past the scope of this piece (protected to say there’s rather a lot to talk about!) but we expect it’s necessary to determine why sustainability matters for print notably.

Large format printing, because of the nature of its place within the provide chain of out of residence (and different forms of promoting) has meant that as an industry it has largely been out of the firing line relating to environmental considerations. Power suppliers, transport corporations, meals producers – these are the industries who’ve felt the influence of the demand for sustainability most prominently. But that is changing.

There are few industries that can deny each their influence on the setting, and the way they will fairly take steps to scale back this – and this elevated degree of understanding is turning into increasingly vital to the shopper. Our clients don’t just need to understand how their products are made, they need to know what kind of impression they’re going to have.

Many traditional print options, notably solvent-heavy inks and plastic-based materials, are removed from sustainable and may generate vital emissions. We’ll be the primary to admit it. However shoppers across all industries aren’t only more conscious of this – they’re extra insistent that we handle it.

Companies at the moment are making robust commitments to measurably decreasing their carbon footprint, and this focus is having a direct impression on the businesses in their provide chains – meaning print suppliers better begin fascinated by this stuff, or they’re going to seek out themselves outmoded, and outdated as new, greener various options emerge.

Print and the Revolution – a big format hyperlink to the setting

Hoardings at Euston Square Garden

The print industry has had considerably of a tumultuous relationship with sustainability up to now – this isn’t right down to a scarcity of excellent will in the direction of the setting, it’s simply right down to the know-how and strategy of how printing has traditionally been completed.

When it comes to environmental influence, relatively than making an attempt to gauge the industry as an entire, it makes more sense to look individually on the key parts of the print course of: the supplies used, the machinery and gear concerned, and the processes (corresponding to the availability chain) that permit this to happen. Once we do, it turns into obvious that the options – or at the very least the ideas – for addressing most of the current issues are already there…

More sustainable materials

Frustratingly, most of the normal materials which were used in giant format printing for decades – together with the inks, solvents, and substrates utilized in many printed solutions – are far from environmentally pleasant.

Thankfully, this is also one of many key areas of innovation on the subject of strategy and know-how. Print suppliers have gotten extra concerned with sourcing and supplying greener options to go well with altering shopper calls for, and this in turn is instigating suppliers to move in the direction of greener substrates, inks, and different supplies.


green inks

The inks involved in print are sometimes a number of the most problematic supplies. Many conventional inks use solvents or eco-solvents (the latter being less environmentally pleasant than they sound), which imply they exude a cocktail of chemical emissions once they’re used. This isn’t good news for the planet.

There are, nevertheless, options. UV-curing or water-based inks are far less dangerous when it comes to emissions, they usually’re turning into extra commonplace within the industry. There are additionally inks which might be designed specifically to break down easily throughout recycling (which is particularly related for printing on paper and board). What’s notably useful for print suppliers is how extensively accessible these have develop into to be used in a number of the most popular print gear.

For the show market, print products that can last for lengthy durations of time outside with out degrading in quality are extraordinarily essential, and fortuitously, most of the eco-friendly inks (water-based, latex-based and so on) talked about above at the moment are of such a high normal that this isn’t a concern. Typically, even the packaging for these products is made out of card and is recyclable!


The substrates – the things that really get ‘printed on’ throughout a challenge – concerned with giant format print even have a pivotal position in sustainability. Historically, many ‘go-to’ substrates have been excessive in PVC. That is problematic, just because the manufacturing, use, and disposal of PVC-based merchandise includes closely poisonous, non biodegradable supplies migrating into the surroundings.

While PVC has introduced a fast, straightforward, and reasonably priced answer for printers, it’s not been a very inexperienced answer, but luckily that’s altering. Mushy signage, reminiscent of rigidity material techniques, at the moment are out there – they usually’re being more actively embraced by shoppers: PressOn have just lately accomplished a venture for Restricted Area and Vashi, involving pressure material field banners which might be set to be recycled quite than thrown away.

Other options to plain vinyl are also being extra commonly used, in some instances notably by giant, iconic brands – which could be very reassuring. A terrific instance of this is polypropylene vinyl. This may sound about as chemical-based because it will get, however it’s truly categorized as low to average when it comes to its influence (much better than PVC vinyl).

New print gear

HP LX3600

It isn’t simply the inks and substrates that have an impact on the surroundings, but the printers that really use them. New print know-how emerges yearly, and while there has all the time been a spirit of innovation inside the industry – discovering methods to scale back print time, or improve quality – there has just lately been a extra notable push in the direction of designing printers with sustainability in mind.

Probably among the best examples of this is HP’s transfer in the direction of printers that use totally solvent-free inks. As one of many largest print gear suppliers on the planet, HP have turn out to be clearly and distinctly aware of their influence and potential energy in changing the best way giant format printers operate when it comes to sustainability, they usually have dedicated to the manufacturing of kit that fulfils these targets.

HP Latex printers (such because the Latex 3500 or Latex 3600, both of which are in use right here at PressOn!) don’t use any UV in the printing process, and utilise solely water-based latex inks – which means no solvents are involved. To prime it off, these printers don’t make any sort of compromise with regards to quality or effectivity too, which means print specialists don’t have to make a sacrifice of their output in the identify of the planet.

New Attitudes

reduce reuse recycle on card

Arguably extra importantly than new inks, printers, or other hardware, is the shifting attitudes of these concerned at each stage of the massive format supply chain. Our industry is changing, and everyone, from our shoppers to our partners, appears to be changing the best way they assume along with it.

It’s not just that we’re turning into more aware of the impression we have now on the planet, however we’re starting to care greater than ever about altering it. We need to actively enhance our output and processes, and it’s exciting to see how we’re finding ways of serving to one another obtain this.

Awards and accreditations resembling GreenGuard now exist to recognise products that actively contribute to the safety of the planet, and these aren’t just examples of greenwashing – they’re real accolades which might be hard-earned, and well-deserved.

Similarly, it’s extraordinarily constructive to see unique and artistic initiatives and incentives emerging from print suppliers and industry-leading businesses. A fantastic instance is HP’s ‘take-back’ scheme – having dedicated to recycling 1.2 million tonnes of hardware and provides by 2025, HP supply a disposal service of all types of their giant format gear, from ink cartridges to entire printers.

The grass is getting greener

green grass

It might be untimely to recommend we’re at the stage the place we will call giant format a very ‘sustainable industry’. For that to happen, we need to remove any and all emissions from every stage of our supply chains, and realistically, that can’t sit completely on the shoulders of huge format print suppliers.

What we will say, with some assurance though, is that it’s clear we care extra now than we ever have carried out earlier than concerning the influence of our work. Whereas some could also be doing greater than others, the broad format digital printing industry is setting its sights on a greener, brighter future for print – and we’re all for it.