Is the print industry becoming more sustainable?

The print industry is synonymous with paper, and this production of printed materials is having one of the most serious effects on the wider environment. Back in the days of the first ever printed book, The Gutenberg Bible, this was less of a worry, as the print industry began its life and was enshrined as a revolutionary development accredited to the works of Johannes Gutenberg. Nowadays, the tide has changed slightly, and most of us are taken aback by the sheer volume of printed marketing materials that filter through our letterboxes on a daily basis, browsed through rarely and doomed to the recycling bin. With the rise of technologies such as litho printing, the industry is being pushed to support new developments with ‘greener’ resources, combatting the effects of harmful human activity. 

The call for sustainable practices has permeated across all sectors and industries, and many societal groups have joined the rallying call. The print industry is linked to  deforestation to the natural oils used to create inks, the industry is facing an unprecedented challenge, but here’s how we are at the forefront of overcoming and embodying new values. Let’s look at some of the most environmentally friendly innovations sweeping through the sector: 

Soy based inks 

Plant products are no longer exclusive to food and drinks products, as the print industry has taken note with the rise of plant-based inks. Traditional inks are made using petroleum, which release volatile organic compounds (or VOC’s). They are linked to a whole host of negative environmental affects, and they’ve even been linked to causing some adverse health conditions under long periods of exposure. As well as this, petroleum oil is ultimately derived from one of the earths finite resources: oil. Vegetable and plant-based inks are more sustainable, with properties that lend themselves to easier de-inking meaning they can be readily recycled. Suppliers of these alternatives tend to embody a more conscious perspective towards the printing industry, so this could certainly be a viable option for any business that is looking to make its digital printing eco-friendlier. 


Our paper consumption accounts for an alarming 14% of global deforestation, or the equivalent destruction of almost 4.1 million hectares of forest per year. This statistic is under scrutiny by environmentalists, making the print industry a focal point for implementing change. Trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen — something which was drilled into each and every one of us in science classes a school, but the gravity of this is becoming a cause for concern as more and more areas of green face the chop. An astounding 502,000 square miles have been cut down in the period 1990 – 2016, impacting biodiversity massively. 

Recycled paper 

So how can we begin to tackle deforestation when we rely heavily upon the products that it produces? Recycled paper has been increasingly brought into the mainstream of the print industry, and it is a proactive step towards becoming more sustainable. Currently, the UK recycles 12.5 million tonnes of paper and cardboard annually, and many more print industry businesses should be prepared to make the switch to really get the most out of this figure. Recycled paper is the greenest option, requiring less water and energy to produce, and contributing far less to overall carbon emissions. Paper fibres can be recycled repeatedly, up to 5 times, which will help the print industry to cut down on how much paper goes to landfill sites. Many brands in the sector have already committed to the eco-friendlier alternative, demonstrating proactivity in the print industry towards increasing sustainability. Plus, recycled papers have been developed to replicate the bright white quality of conventional sheets — making it even more feasible for the digital printing industry to adopt them into their strategy. 

On the whole, the print industry is making some positive steps towards the implementation of more sustainable practices, listening to the demands and concerns of both the client and the consumer. 

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