Environmentally friendly inks & toner

PrintTogether use a mixture of digital printing, HP Indigo printing and offset printing. Which process is used largely depends of the product and quantity required. Lets take a look at each process in a little more detail:

DIGITAL PRINTING:

Dry toner for digital printing

Commercial digital printing machines use dry toner rather than a liquid ink to fuse an image on to the surface of paper using heat. Digital printing and dry toners are regarded as an environmentally friendly and affordable way to print for small runs (generally up to around 1000-2000 copies of an item). This is due to the toner being non-toxic and having a high efficiency transfer rate meaning very little waste. Dry toner once printed is also able to be de-inked in commercial recycling. Dry toner is supplied in cartridges which are collection by the supplier once used and recycled.

Digital printing requires a lot less setup than offset printing, meaning very little wasted paper when running test sheets. Water, solvents or aluminium printing plates are also not required at all for digital printing.

Using digital dry toner to be a very fast, cost effective and environmentally responsible option for small run printing.


ElectroInk for HP Indigo printing

HP ElectroInk is a unique 'liquid ink/toner' that combines the environmental benefits and advantages of conventional dry toner to create a print quality similar to that of an offset oil based ink. HP ElectroInk contains charged pigmented particles in a liquid carrier. HP ElectroInk is supplied as a concentrated paste that is loaded into the press in sealed tubular cartridges. Inside the press it is fed into ink supply tanks and diluted with oil, to form a fluid mixture of carrier liquid and colourant particles ready for printing.

HP Indigo printing is a little more complex than conventional digital printing. A small amount of water is required and a little more waste is produced as compared to dry toner. Resources and running costs are higher than dry toner machines, however all in all ElectroInk is regarded as an environmentally friendly way to print with great results for small to medium run jobs.

OFFSET PRINTING:

Petroleum based ink for offset printing
Offset printing is a completely different process to digital printing using an oil based ink. Petroleum based offset inks became popular with many printers because it dries fast, allowing materials to be printed, finished and out the door relatively quickly. The problem with petroleum based ink is that the petrol and alcohol content evaporates in the drying process, releasing up to 30% VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds – see below) into the atmosphere. Solvents are also required to clean the press after use – and solvents are another source of VOCs. Petroleum based ink is also harder to de-ink when being recycled, which results in toxic waste. Printing with petroleum based inks is not environmentally friendly and should be avoided.

Vegetable based ink for offset printing
The environmentally friendly alternative for offset printing is vegetable based ink. The base liquid for this ink is made from a variety of vegetable oils such as corn, walnut, coconut, linseed, canola and soy bean. Vegetable based ink takes longer to dry but, as a result, releases only around 2-4% VOCs into the atmosphere. Vegetable oils are a renewable resource, unlike petroleum. Solvents are not required for cleaning, as the press can be cleaned with a water based cleaner, reducing VOCs further. Vegetable based ink is also much easier to de-ink when recycling and results in much less hazardous waste.

Vegetable based inks are no more expensive than petroleum based inks. With time we predict petrol based ink will be a thing of the past. The sooner the better!

PrintTogether on use vegetable based inks on offset printed materials.

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THINGS TO AVOID:

There are a few extra things you should also consider when creating your designs and deciding what colours to use.

Metallic ink:
Ink that contains metallic particles should be avoided. These inks cannot be recycled and end up in landfill, where they can then leak toxic compounds into the water table. Metallic fragments can also be harmful to animals and humans if inhaled or absorbed. There are other ways to create extra special designs with a standout factor, such as environmentally friendly aqueous varnishes and finishes like embossing or die-cutting.

Lamination:

Laminating thicker items such as business cards and covers makes them more durable but, again, this should be avoided. These items can not be recycled after they have been discarded and so end up as landfill.