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Bindery Sustainability -- Greening from End to End

February 2009 By Cheryl Adams
Managing Editor
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MATT ANSON’S quiver runneth over with “green” arrows. His multi-location binding, finishing and packaging company, Bindagraphics, is a mega corporation that has embraced sustainability practices across the board. And, those eco-measures are on time, on target and helping his postpress operation whizz past its competition. With each bulls-eye he hits, Anson is zeroing in on expanding business endeavors, as well as environmental cleanliness. 

“Being eco-friendly is a win-win,” he says. “We’re generating revenues by reclaiming waste and, at the same time, we’re availing ourselves of a new window of opportunity with buyers who want green products.”

Bindagraphics has implemented a wide range of sustainability practices at its Baltimore headquarters, as well as at its facilities in Buffalo, NY; Atlanta; and High Point, NC. It recycles and reclaims paper, selling the reclaimed waste at a rate of about 7 million pounds each year. The Buffalo plant is FSC and SFI chain-of-custody certified. The Buffalo facility is also an EPA Green Power Partner and purchases more than 10 percent of its energy generated from wind power.

All Bindagraphics facilities have auto/vacuum scrap collection systems that remove waste directly to a baler, and dust from binding equipment is also captured. Additionally, investments have been made in equipment capable of processing paper-free products, such as synthetic paper, and lighting throughout each facility has been replaced with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs.

The company is ISO 9000 certified, customized to accommodate various eco-friendly efforts. “In addition to covering quality control procedures, we also built FSC and SFI chain-of-custody procedures into our ISO manual,” explains Anson. “It wasn’t easy. But, it was important.”

Yet another arrow in Bindagraphics’ sustainability quiver is its involvement in an energy-load curtailment program: It cuts back on its electricity usage when there is stress on the grid. And, it complies with EPACT 2005, wherein tax credits and/or rebates are given to the company for curtailing energy usage by certain thresholds and conserving energy within the building. 

An assortment of substrates used at the Bindagraphics facilities are also green. Two popular ones are an eco-friendly laminate and plastic coil, the latter of which is made from either 96 percent recycled plastic or PET/PETG that does not release any dioxins when incinerated.

At Bindagraphics, sustainability is an essential part of the business, and the company is walking the (green) walk. “We are reducing our corporate carbon footprint and, by doing so, we are helping to preserve the planet,” Anson says. “When it comes to cleaning up the environment, we want to do our part.”

Holum & Sons Co., a Westmont, IL-based custom looseleaf packaging and promotional products provider, has also incorporated sustainability into its business practices.

“We are doing our part to use the planet’s natural resources in a responsible way,” says Richard Holum, president. “Let’s face it; we only have a limited amount of resources to work with before they will be depleted. If 80 percent of what we used to throw away is being recycled, then we are saving an amazing amount of resources.”

Rooted in Responsibility

Holum & Sons was founded 76 years ago, producing turned-edge products made from linen-based book cloth, chipboard and protein-based adhesives, which are all environmentally friendly materials. The company has never let go of those green roots, which have grown even greener over the years.

Consider the extensive list of sustainable measures that have been implemented: The facility’s outdated heating/air conditioning units were replaced with new, highly efficient systems, reducing energy usage by almost 50 percent. Programmable thermostats, which automatically drop temperatures up to 30 degrees after business hours, have been installed throughout the plant.

Holum & Sons recycles or reuses all corrugated packaging, and all chipboard, corrugated, paper trim, polyethylene, polypropylene, vinyl, brass and copper materials used in the finishing process are sold to recycling facilities. Additionally, all brass and copper foil stamping dies are recycled, and pallets are reused or sent to a pallet manufacturer for reconditioning or reprocessing.

“We probably recycle 80 percent of our waste,” says Holum. “Twenty years ago, we had a garbage pick-up daily. Now, we have a weekly pick-up, which is less than what we used to produce in one day.”

As a finisher/converter, Holum & Sons works with substrates from FSC- and/or SFI-certified vendors, and converts those materials into products, which retain that certification. In addition, approximately 95 percent of the bindery’s ink-jet systems use low- to no-VOC inks. 

Last, but certainly not least, Holum invests in energy-efficient, eco-friendly technology when older model equipment is replaced. One example is a recently installed high-speed casemaking line that uses 30 percent less energy.

Greening Since the ’60s

Another sustainable postpress business is Diecrafters in Cicero, IL. This converter/finisher has been a friend of the environment decades before eco-friendliness was in vogue. “We’ve recycled our waste paper since the 1960s,” explains Bob Windler, president.

Today, Diecrafters recycles virtually all of its waste in quantities up to 120 tons per month. That triple-digit tonnage of waste includes recycled paper and board from manufacturing, as well as recycled plastic from a wide range of sources, including manufacturing, packaging and material handling systems. Hundreds of pounds of office waste are also recycled monthly.

Diecrafters’ lighting fixtures were replaced and updated several years ago, and the company is currently planning another upgrade to T8 lighting, which will reduce power requirements by 12 percent. 

Interestingly, an important side benefit of being green is that Windler’s entire staff feels good about what they are doing at work to help the environment. “We’re engaging employees in a meaningful way,” he says, “and, I truly believe that being green contributes to improving our company—and our profits.”

Besides its hearty recycling efforts, Diecrafters aids clients in their FSC tracking efforts and actively supports two trade associations—the Binding Industries of America, and Foil Stamping and Embossing Association—in developing standards for sustainable postpress production measures.

“Sustainability is very important to our company,” Windler says. “In addition to the obvious moral duty and desire to be a ‘good corporate citizen,’ there is money to be saved, as well as an opportunity to hand our children a cleaner world than the one we received.”

As the green movement picks up momentum, more graphic arts establishments are realizing the many possibilities associated with having a sustainable finishing operation. Ann Arbor, MI-based Edwards Brothers (EB) is a leading book, journal and catalog printer that operates manufacturing plants in Michigan and North Carolina that may be as eco-friendly as any on record. 

“We’ve been recycling for 50 years because it makes financial sense, so being ‘green’ is not new for us,” explains John Edwards, president and CEO. “We’ve enhanced our efforts significantly in the last five years, and team members enthusiastically do what it takes to segment waste and recycle it properly because deeper segmentation of waste yields a higher return. We recycle or use 97.5 percent of all raw materials entering the plant, shipping them out as finished products, or as 27 different recyclable byproducts.” 

In addition to recycling ink, printing plates and other materials involved in the printing process, EB also recycles nearly 21 tons of post-production paper, segmented as printed/unprinted, and free and unground sheets; all plastic wrap, straps, drums and bottles; all carton waste; and all defective books and unusable book cloth.

“We even send out paper dust (which recyclers won’t take) to be used as bedding for horses vs. sending it to a landfill,” Edwards says. “Our goal is to boost material use/reuse to 99 percent, and we’re almost there. The fact that it pays and makes environmental sense is a win-win for us.”

Edwards Brothers has more than 120 collection sites within the Ann Arbor plant to collect paper, cardboard, plastic, aluminum and steel. A collection system collects trim throughout the plant and delivers the material to an automatic baling system. And, a vertical stroke baler is used for cardboard scrap. (The two Lillington, NC, facilities have similar setups.) 

“Our recycling efforts translate into almost 19 million pounds of paper, conservation of 4 billion gallons of water and 25.6 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year,” Edwards reports. “If every business adopted similar programs, imagine what a positive impact that would have on the environment.”

Edwards, like other green printing/bindery firms, understands that having a sustainable operation is good for his business, his community, his customers and the planet.

“By making more of an effort to be green, we raise money from items that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill,” he concludes. “We enable our customers to offer environmentally friendly products to their customers. And, we’re helping to improve the lives of our neighbors by donating some of the recycling proceeds to Habitat for Humanity and the United Way.” PI


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