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Turning CMYK into Green

Touting your shop's shrinking environmental footprint makes good business sense.

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By Peggy Middendorf

Beyond inksets, printers will want to search out substrates that can be re-used, recycled, or are renewable. One of the first such products to broadcast its bio-friendly features is Ultraflex’s BioFlex. When dumped in a landfill, the coated PVC begins to break down within a week and completely biodegrades into non-toxic sodium powder in 3 to 5 years, the company reports. The first BioFlex product, a 13-oz coated frontlit billboard/banner product, is now shipping and is compatible with solvent, UV-curable, screen-printing, and dye-sub inksets. Its first big splash was a billboard (printed by Image Mill in Seattle) for Nike’s 10th anniversary of its NikeTown store in San Francisco.

Look for more BioFlex products in the near future, including BioMesh. And, soon, BioFlex will be manufactured by extrusion coating, making it less expensive. "One-by-one, Ultraflex expects to convert all of its short-term specialty products to biodegradable products," says Lorna D’Alessio, president of Ultraflex Systems.

Walk the walk
When print providers begin looking at their overall environmental footprint-from integrating environmental health and safety into the business decision-making process to the impact that the company and its products has on its community-and develop a framework to improve, they move toward "sustainability."

The challenge every company faces, however, is how to keep production levels high, while conforming to those environmental goals as well as the environmental demands of your customers. While protecting the environment is important, so is your bottom line. If your company becomes green but fails to make a profit, it could all be for naught. Everything is a balancing act.

Peggy Middendorf is managing editor of The Big Picture.

Ink Issues and Ventilation Solutions
Printers use inks-whether those inks are of the solvent, low/eco-solvent, or UV-curable variety. Consider these ink and ventilation points as you move toward making your work environment even greener.

Solvent inks-Many of the vapors released by drying solvents-the organic solvent fumes (called VOCs when they reach the outside air)-are hazardous to employees that breathe them in during their 8-hour shifts. Heavy-duty ventilation systems are a must when using these ink systems. Beyond simple ventilation, regulations regarding safe exposures to each ink will be different, depending on its specific ingredients.