Friday, February 27, 2015
A year or so ago the Carlsberg Circular Community (CCC) announced a project to develop next generation packaging materials optimised for recycling and reuse. The CCC is Carlsberg plus a collection of its global suppliers and they have now announced that they are working on a biodegradable and refillable drinks bottle. The Green Fibre Bottle, including the cap, is to be made entirely of sustainably sourced wood fibre and will be developed over the next three years. The project is estimated to cost €1.43 million with 60% coming from the Business Innovation Fund in Denmark.
Unlike glass which can be recycled but which can take a million years to eventually biodegrade, the new material will be readily biodegradable once the package reaches end of life. The Green Fibre Bottle reduces Carlsberg’s need to use primary materials in its drinks packaging, because the bottle is made from waste paper pulp. The project is part of a larger puzzle for Carlsberg, which is actively encouraging upcycling. Upcycling uses waste materials as the input for new stuff, for instance using old tyres for flipflops or waste paper for containers.
Carlsberg’s partners in the CCC project includes providers of cans, glass bottle coatings and packaging, paperboard multipacks and PET kegs for draught beer. One of them is EcoXpac a developer of customised protective packaging based on biodegradable moulded fibre which is taking the lead in creating the Green Fibre Bottle.
Reducing dependence on primary materials is a core principle for a rising number of consumer product companies. In packaging it means coming up with new ideas and approaches to packaging product development, refurbishment and remanufacturing. In the print production sector companies such as Ricoh and HP have been doing this for years with hardware and ink cartridges. But this is more about reusing parts that have not reached their end of life. Carlsberg is putting into place a comprehensive programme to use waste and turn it into something useful that will eventually biodegrade, the ultimate cradle-to-grave scenario.
Carlsberg’s journey is to develop and market new products that support a circular, zero-waste economy using its Cradle-to-Cradle business platform within the CCC. There are now eight partners in the group and Carlsberg wants to have fifteen by 2016. There are no packaging printers in the group just yet but Carlsberg is open to encouraging them to join. They are looking for partners with a shared vision of eliminating the concept of waste, and who can help Carlsberg to reduce the business’s resource impact. Carlsberg claim that the Green Fibre Bottle is fully compliant with food and beverage regulations and that it is strong and durable. It’s early days but Carlsberg hopes to have a viable product by 2018.
Friday, February 20, 2015
Is it time to shake the hand of Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and forgive its past sins? The Rainforest Alliance recently published an audit report confirming that APP is largely living up to the Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) it published in February 2013. At least as far as Indonesia goes. However the Rainforest Alliance, commissioned by APP to do this work, has concluded that “overall, the progress to meet the commitments varies”.
We have blogged on this topic before, most recently last summer when APP had outlined plans for the restoration and conservation of one million hectares of Indonesian rainforest. At the time APP was vague about these plans saying: “… currently APP and its suppliers are obliged to set aside approximately ten percent of the gross area, equivalent to 260 thousand hectares for conservation purposes. The one million hectares commitment … could include parts of the ten percent legal obligation if this conservation area supports the core protected forest in each of the identified landscapes”. Could is not the same as will and plans are still vague.
On the plus side, according to the Rainforest Alliance report, APP is only using plantation fibre from its 38 suppliers in Indonesia whose concessions cover 2.6 million hectares. However “Staff in virtually every concession that the Rainforest Alliance visited told the team that operations within existing plantations and on peatlands have not changed compared to the years prior to the FCP. Not so good.
APP is also developing measures to ensure that suppliers in its global supply chain meet requirements outlined in the company’s Responsible Fibre Procurement and Processing Policy. The Rainforest Alliance report report says that APP itself is also being more transparent in its dealings with NGOs and that “there has been significant progress to complete 38 HCV [High Conservation Value] assessments and six HCS [High Carbon Stock] forest assessments”. This is also good news.
However the report does not entirely give APP a clean bill of health. The company has so far failed to change its management practises on peatlands, although it has established a Peatland Expert Team which has made only “limited progress to develop Integrated Sustainable Forest Management Plans (ISFMP)”. When it comes to HCV and HCS forests, APP is basically doing nothing to protect them from third party clearance. “Field observations in the 21 concessions visited indicate that APP has not implemented measures on the ground to fully protect moratorium areas from this third party clearance”.This is not good news at all.
APP has publicly welcomed this evaluation as part of its effort to regain the trust of its market. But moderate progress is not enough to dispel a nagging sense that APP isn’t truly committed to fixing the environmental damage it has done. APP wants to get NGOs such as the WWF and Greenpeace off their backs, and customers back on board so it may be gambling that we’ll all be happy with moderate progress. But it’s not enough. Progress is too slow for return to APP’s dubious embrace.
Friday, February 13, 2015
2014 was a watershed year for computer-to-plate (CtP) production: processless platesetting shifted up a gear, with all three major manufacturers making substantial headway in the market. Processless plates make economic and environmental sense, because you simply image the plate and mount it on press. Simple. There are no chemical disposal costs or waste water to deal with, so significant reductions are to be had in water usage, waste production and energy consumption. Equally important you save time producing plates and the latest generation achieves decent results on press. What’s not to like?
The market now has a choice of three excellent direct on press plates, so printers really have no excuse for not making the move to processless. These plates aren’t quite as simple to output as a page from a desktop printer, but all they basically need is a thermal imagesetter imaging at 800 to 850nm. The convenience, cost savings and throughput improvements are why growing numbers of printers are going processless.
All three major plate manufacturers claim to be the market leader. Agfa has been in this sector for many years, with well over 10,000 installations, and recently introduced the new Azura TE, a direct on press plate for run lengths of 75,000+. Most of the Agfa installations so far have been for the chemistry-free Azura offline plates. These require a clean-out unit before being ready for press, rather than being direct on press plates. Fujfilm has 3000 sites worldwide producing its PRO-T plate and is seeing consistent growth in customer numbers. According to a spokesman “it is safe to say that PRO-T is still the number one processless plate in the market by a considerable margin”. That could start to change, given the speed with which Kodak’s Sonora has been adopted and the large installed Agfa customer base, many of whom are making the move to Azura TE.
Of the top three, Kodak is the most keen to publish installations data, and last July announced that there were 1000 customers using Sonora processless plates. Earlier this year Kodak said that there were over 1800 companies using the plate and that strong growth is expected to continue worldwide. The company’s North American customer base grew by 400% and its European one by 200% last year, as new customers invested in Sonora and existing ones switched from Kodak Thermal Direct. Kodak is investing into new manufacturing facilities, anticipating that 2015 will see accelerating growth in its installed base. In Asia the company has over 200 customers and has upgraded its factory in Xiamen, China. In Latin America Sonora News plates account for some 35% of Kodak plate sales.
2015 will be the year of processless platesetting. We expect to see growth in conventional thermal plates plateau as more printers go processless. This can only help improve print’s already positive environmental impact.
Friday, February 06, 2015
It’s the little everyday things that add up to potentially negative environmental impacts. One of the world’s most fundamentally important activities is buying and selling goods, commodities and services. It keeps us all busy and of course drives economies. Printing and communications technologies are as vital for business as transport. Our industry is pretty smart when it comes to producing sustainable products that do not have a negative impact on the environment. But we don’t do much to preach the sustainability word to our supply chains, preferring instead to depend on industry associations for collective action. One of the more proactive industry groups is the US based Sustainable Green Printing (SGP) partnership. SGP certifies US printing companies for compliance to its own print specific sustainability standards.
SGP recently joined an influential group working on sustainable purchasing guidance. The Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) is a group formed specifically to develop a “guidance program for leadership in sustainable purchasing”. This will inevitably include print buying and publishing processes, so it’s great that SGP is representing these sectors. The SPLC’s members include people from US national and regional governments, academia, standards groups and NGOs as well as a range of industries. Some of these are very large such as the World Wildlife Fund, Fedex, UPS, and Asian Pulp and Paper. This is an important initiative for the US which is the world’s largest consumer, purchasing goods and services worth some $15.2 trillion per year, according to the SPLC. The US is also the world’s biggest producer of waste, so anything that can be done to improve it’s environmental footprint is a good thing.
The SPLC objective is to develop standard definitions of what sustainable purchasing actually means and how it is measured and recognised. ISO 16759 for calculating the carbon footprint of print media is an obvious tool here, however the guidelines will also cover actions to improve purchasing processes. This includes switching suppliers or using performance criteria for contract renewals. The guidelines development process involves sharing best practices and experiences, as well as coming up with ideas for how to train people in sustainable purchasing and how to measure and certify compliance. This process has much in common with how ISO standards, which are based on shared knowledge and consensus, are developed.
Acting collectively depends on coordination of diverse interests, but it can be more effective than acting individually, particularly if the goal is to encourage more sustainable purchasing processes. The SPLC’s first step is to define what sustainable purchasing actually means, so that people all along the supply chain understand the term. Despite the tempting vanities of anarchy we should all be taking a closer look at what this group is doing. It is especially important that printing and publishing industry associations do so, perhaps with a view to joining the SPLC.
Friday, February 06, 2015
At the latest ISO TC130 standards meeting, Working Group 11 (WG11) took a big step forward. WG11 is responsible for standards relating to the environmental impact of graphics technology and has been working on the development of a deinking standard. This is intended to encourage more people to recycle papers and to invest in print products based on recycled paper.
Deinking, particularly of digitally printed papers, is a subject that raises a lot of peoples’ blood pressure. The high anxiety is mostly down to fear that traditional deinking business models are under threat. And they are because more complex ink formulations and substrate performance expectations place new demands on traditional deinking processes. The market no longer expects recycled papers to have no better than newsprint quality. Nowadays we expect to have the option of using recyclates even for the most beautiful of graphic papers. This requires new approaches to deinking and technologies that can remove even the most tenacious of inks. Fortunately there are such technologies.
Deinking is a necessary step for turning old paper into pulp that can be used to make new papers. The graphic arts market has a constantly growing supply of substrates, with many designers and print buyers keen to use papers based on recycled materials. They are also keen that these papers can in their turn be recycled and they want a choice of superior quality materials that can be reliably printed on digital presses. Digital press manufacturers want their customers to have choices, but they also want recycled papers that will behave themselves in the press and not cause problems with feeding or molest their printheads. All in all there is a lot of interest from numerous perspectives in the deinking topic. Some want to ossify the status quo and others, fortunately the majority, want the deinking business to move with the times.
Without deinking we would not be able to recycle discarded papers, which means they would end up in landfill. What is important is not to ask whether different materials and print processes are suitable for deinking, but to provide papermakers and their customers with guidance for evaluating raw materials produced from recycled papers. This is the approach WG11 is taking with the new ISO standard for deinkability. In fact there will be a series of documents that provide assessment guidance for the recyclability of paper-based printer matter. The first, Deinkability Evaluation, will help printers, print buyers, consumers and most importantly producers of raw materials based on recovered paper, to assess deinked pulp’s fitness for purpose. They will also be better able to assess the recyclability of print media products based on paper. WG11 meets again in May to discuss the current draft of the standard. If you’ve any suggestions or thoughts or want to get involved, please get in touch.