In a world where bank statements and prescriptions are increasingly becoming ‘paperless’, it seems everybody is keen to move to digital alternatives. Yet here we are, running a printing company which, of course, is based on paper. We cannot deny that print does have an impact on the environment but we’re guessing it’s not as big as you think. We’ve been speaking to Richard Crow, our Compliance Project Manager and the man in charge of our environmental policies, to find out what we do in our factory to reduce our ecological impact.
We adhere to the standards set by the ISO 14001 which is an internationally recognised standard for environmental management. This provides us with frameworks on how to identify, manage and control any environmental concerns we find. It covers all sorts of environmental issues, such as air pollution, water and sewage issues, soil contamination and climate change. Signing up to ISO 14001 also requires us to be externally audited on a regular basis so that we can be sure we are doing what we can to be environmentally friendly.
The FSC Supply Chain
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of what we produce is paper-based, plus we require a large amount of cardboard in order to package our products. You might think that a lot of forests are being cut down because of all of this but, when done properly, paper is a renewable resource and that is what the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) are trying to achieve. To be FSC certified, forests must be managed with sustainability in mind and any paper from these forests can then be identified with the FSC logo. All the paper that we use comes from FSC certified suppliers which means we can say, with confidence, that our paper comes from properly managed forests.
Printing can produce a lot of waste through used ink cartridges, paper off-cuts and doing re-runs when a job hasn’t been done to a high enough standard. There are couple of things we do as a company, however, in order to reduce this waste. As you might expect, we try to avoid re-runs as much as possible, not just for the saved paper but because it is more cost-efficient for us to get things right first time.
Aside from that though, we have pipes connected to our finishing machines which automatically suck up any off-cuts and transport them directly to a recycling container. Card and paper is then separated to make it easier for the recycling plant. We also buy our ink in large containers, rather than several small containers, so that packaging is minimal. Finally, we’ve recently made the move from double-walled packaging to single-walled so as to cut down on the amount of cardboard we’re using to send our products out to customers.
Print vs Digital: Is going paperless really the solution?
So, clearly the printing industry has an effect on our eco-system and we must actively work to combat that. However, what often gets overlooked is the effect that producing energy has on the environment. Paper, at least, can be recycled and it comes from a sustainable source. It is one of the few resources than can be fully recycled and is the most recycled material in the world. Not only that, European forests, which source 85% of the European print industry’s raw materials, grew the size of Switzerland between 2005 and 2015.
On the other hand, the majority of resources needed to create electrical energy are not reusable and, for the most part, are not sustainable. In fact, according to the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs, electronic waste is the fastest-growing source of waste in the EU, increasing by 16-28% every five years. Moreover, instead of growing trees to replace those lost in the process, it is thought that computers, cellular networks and data centres are connected to the destruction of over 600 square miles of forest in the US. If substantial efforts were made to move energy production to sustainable sources, there may not be as much waste created. Unfortunately, there is very little investment put into renewable energy sources.
Richard, our Compliance Project Manager, has this to say on the subject; “All activity has its impact on the environment to some degree and it depends on which aspect you look at as to which activity is better or worse. However, the printing industry is well aware of its impact and makes green choices in order to minimise the effects. People don’t tend to realise that paperless alternatives still have huge energy consumption rates and that they are likely to be fuelled by non-renewable resources too.”
Managing and implementing our environmental policies is just a part of what Richard does for us here at Route One Print. Read more about his role in our Behind the Scenes interview.