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Inks and Environmental Issues--Compliance vs. Quality

May 1998
Environmentally speaking, what's hot in inks? The EPA—hot on the trail of compliance offenders.

But commercial printers cited for noncompliance need not join the much-dreaded "Environmental 4-H Club"—hazardous (as in waste), havoc (as in scrambling for compliance), helpless (the feeling of ineffective scrambling) and hell-to-pay (the cost of noncompliance).

With hundreds of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) listed by the EPA—and even more listed at the state level—it's easy to see why printers are feeling suffocated by the growing compliance haze. This controversial issue, like the color of polluted air, is gray, on the best of days.

"The first line of defense is to contact industry organizations like the PIA, GAA [Gravure Association of America], FTA [Flexographic Technical Association] and GATF," says Dr. Edmund Funk, Sun Chemical's vice president of sales and marketing. "These organizations exist to serve printers. They represent the industry and are the best to give advice."

However, since legislation is the top concern for both printers and printing ink manufacturers, it's understandable that vendors are receiving an onslaught of calls from concerned customers.

Which Technology to Use?
"Customers will call and say, 'I've been cited! What do I do? Which technology should I use?' We go over the different technologies with clients and do a comparison of efficiencies, economics and applications to find out which will work best for them," explains Funk. "As ink manufacturers, we make recommendations, but it's the printer's decision."

According to most major ink manufacturers, the votes are already in. Reports show the strongest areas of ink growth are in UV curing, water-based, soy-based, and waterless inks—in that order.

The heightened growth in UV (and EB) ink has been spurred, in part, by the fact that these inks are 100-percent solids and contain less than 1-percent VOCs. Also, since UV inks don't dry on the press, there's less washup, which translates to less harmful waste. Less skinning is another environmentally friendly benefit of UV ink.

Water-based ink is the number-two choice of compliance-seeking printers. As more R&D dollars are spent in the water-based arena, improvements are being made in its drying, adhesive and print qualities.

Third-ranking soy-based inks are enjoying continued growth, as more R&D is devoted to this environmentally friendly bean from America's Heartland. (See sidebar for more about soy.)

Waterless inks are tied with soy formulations for third place in environmentally friendly inks. The main advantage of waterless is the elimination of fountain solution waste, says Ken Ferguson, technical director of Van Son Holland Ink.

 

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