Paper and Sustainability – Exploring Eco-Conscious Printing in 2024

About

In the year 2024, amidst the global push for eco-consciousness, individuals and businesses alike are striving to align their practices with sustainability principles. However, navigating the realm of environmentally-friendly printing, particularly in the context of business, presents its challenges. This brief discourse aims to shed light on this matter.

To provide some orientation, let’s delve into the existing, albeit varying degrees of recognition, eco-labels, and assess them pragmatically.

One of the most renowned eco-labels in the paper industry is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). It attests to sustainable forestry practices, emphasizing a balance between harvesting and replenishing trees, with a commitment to preserving protected areas such as virgin forests.

Despite its prominence, we find FSC to be a rather weak certification. Notably, Greenpeace, a co-founder of FSC, terminated its collaboration with the organization several years ago. Printers boasting eco-friendliness solely based on FSC certification cannot be deemed truly sustainable, even if they claim to use eco-friendly or bio-inks. Given the chemical and resource-intensive nature of the printing industry, sustainability encompasses far broader considerations.

A lesser-known fact to many is that recycled paper materials often constitute a mosaic of various paper sources, resulting in a veritable landfill of toxic waste. These materials, originating from diverse sources and printed using various techniques, from mundane promotional leaflets to glossy brochures and posters, often coated and contaminated, are collected through paper recycling programs and necessitate thorough processing. A pivotal step in this process is de-inking, which involves the use of some potentially problematic and environmentally harmful chemicals. Consequently, the de-inking process must be impeccably sustainable. Enter what is arguably the most eco-conscious printing certification available today:

The Blue Angel.

This label guarantees toxin-free materials and a 100% recycled paper content. Crucially, the Blue Angel certification extends beyond individual products to encompass the entire printing facility and its processes. Only after obtaining such certification may a printer produce items eligible for Blue Angel certification. Customers must, therefore, pay close attention to the certification status of specific products, as mere inclusion of the Blue Angel symbol in a printer’s imprint does not suffice.

Additionally, there is the concept of Cradle to Cradle printing. Pioneered by German chemist Prof. Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle principles epitomize the global endeavor towards a circular economy. Over 13,000 products, ranging from packaging for cleaning products to office furniture and even entire office buildings, have been fully Cradle to Cradle certified. This approach extends to papers and printing processes.

Cradle to Cradle printing yields products theoretically compostable without leaving a trace of toxins in the environment, a remarkable feat indeed. However, the flip side is that Cradle to Cradle papers typically utilize virgin fibers rather than recycled paper, thereby further straining wood resources, critical for construction and as essential CO2 sinks.

Furthermore, the practicality of composting significant amounts of paper remains questionable. Given the prevalence of paper recycling programs, the drawbacks of Cradle to Cradle paper become evident. Separate collection and processing are necessary to truly close the loop.

Nevertheless, recent advancements have seen hybrid approaches combining Blue Angel and Cradle to Cradle methodologies, enabling the integration of recycled papers into Cradle to Cradle processes. For businesses with substantial printing requirements and a genuine commitment to sustainability, such endeavors are not only feasible but highly worthwhile.

The associated costs are minimal, offering a sustainable narrative that resonates for months, whether for tender submissions, employer branding, or social media outreach.

Thus, the wheat is separated from the chaff in the realm of truly sustainable printing practices.

Agencies like be nice, deeply engaged in sustainability, serve as invaluable guides in this pursuit. Drawing from experience, we can swiftly discern where deeper exploration is warranted, distinguishing between instances where a simple “Blauer Engel”-certified flyer suffices and where a more comprehensive approach is appropriate.

jj-ying on unsplash

Newsletter

Recommended articles

Germany’s first service association for the circular economy starts accepting corporate members

Germany’s first service association for the circular economy starts accepting corporate members

Starting now, nice is accepting members. Be part of it! Here are the advantages in the famous nutshell ...

read more
Marketing Impacts through the nice Membership

Marketing Impacts through the nice Membership

Your great products and services, some of which are already on the market and some of which are ...

read more
be nice core team

be nice core team

why not just team? be nice currently, in march 2024, consists, of a more or less loose group ...

read more

Contact

If you can’t reach us by phone, click on the calendar icon and arrange a time for a call or web meeting with just a few clicks.

We look forward to hearing from you, or you can simply use the contact form.

Data protection
We, nice network initiative circular economy e.V. (Club seat: Germany), process personal data for the operation of this website only to the extent technically necessary. All details in our privacy policy.
Data protection
Country flag English
We, nice network initiative circular economy e.V. (Club seat: Germany), process personal data for the operation of this website only to the extent technically necessary. All details in our privacy policy.